Rehabbing Rehab


The appointment of Timothy J. Roe, M.D., as president and CEO of the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific would be routine news if it were not for its critical timing. While patients are scrambling for hospital beds and acute care services with the closure of Hawaii Medical Center, it is apparent that the state’s health care infrastructure is hurting.

Is there a doctor in the house? Roe is making an executive house call on REHAB to sustain its viability in a new age of medicine. How will he take Hawaii’s most unique 68-bed hospital and outpatient clinic specializing in rehabilitative medicine and implement its blueprint for success?


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With Ko Miyataki (left) leading a $17.2 million capital campaign for Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, new president Dr. Timothy Roe is overseeing a major renovation of the place where miracles happen. She's wearing a robotic arm device and he's holding a robotic leg device that provides mobility to people who otherwise couldn't walk. Leah Friel photo

What does it take to be an architect of healing?

First of all, it takes credentials. Roe ascends to REHAB’s top executive post after being on the hospital’s board of directors for four years as well as serving on its medical staff. He brings more than two decades of experience in medical and rehabilitative care administration and management.

Most recently, he served as executive director for Cheng Health Foundation in Hawaii. He also has served as CEO and medical director for International Health Technologies; on the medical staff at The Queen’s Medical Center and Kuakini Medical Center; as medical director of St. Joseph Regional Rehabilitation Center in Indiana and Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital in South Carolina, and as director of West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

The San Diego native earned his Bachelor of Science degree from University of Notre Dame, a Master of Business Administration degree from University of Hawaii at Manoa and doctorate in medicine from Loyola University. He completed his internship in internal medicine at University of California at Los Angeles and West Los Angeles VAMC departments of medicine, and residency at UCLA’s Multicampus Residency Program.

He is a fellow of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, a diplomate of the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the National Board of Medical Examiners, and is certified by the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners.

Roe, 50, succeeds Edward Clair Jones, who served as REHAB’s president-CEO since 2007. Under Jones’ leadership, several major initiatives came to fruition, including the development of an innovation center and planning of a $17.2 million capital campaign toward major renovation of REHAB.

An architect of healing must have designs on the future.

Evolving through a nearly six-decade history, it’s time to rehabilitate REHAB and take it to its next stage of productivity and usefulness in the community. The 122,250-squarefoot building at 226 N. Kuakini St. in Nuuanu has housed many miracles in patients’ physical and cognitive recoveries over the years.

It’s about to get a makeover. That’s Roe’s mandate, working with a cast of hundreds, including the REHAB board, a hardworking foundation and many supporters.

“My career has been somewhat atypical of someone in medical practice,” says Roe. “Only a small percentage of doctors gravitate toward medical administration. But I realize that as a physician that I can use my skills and knowledge, working with a dedicated staff, to develop facilities that express patient-centered care.”

Patient-centered care. What a concept! Isn’t that what hospitals should be in the first place?

Well, if one considers the institutional setting of hospitals of the past, that was not always the case. One enters a facility ill or seriously injured and is traumatized by a harsh environment of brightly lit hallways, sterile walls, no windows with views and a place of intimidating confinement.

It was enough to make you sick.

We’re not saying hospitals need to resemble country clubs, but studies have shown that a homelike setting helps healing and recovery. Hotel and spalike amenities, such as view windows, family rooms and healing gardens, are now being incorporated into wellness centers.

We feel better already. Those features are integrated into the renovation and rebuilding plans of Hawaii’s REHAB hospital, largest and only one of its kind in the state.

It’s a major investment of $17.2 million in sustaining a community lifeline. Reaching that financial goal is the mission of the REHAB Foundation, led by dynamic president Ko Miyataki, whose dedication to supporting the work of REHAB dates back to 1988.

Miyataki also serves as senior vice president of human resources at REHAB, which employs 390 people, including nurses and therapists with specialities in aquatic, physical, occupational and speech rehabilitation. She started her career at UH Foundation as director of annual giving, and moved to REHAB Foundation as its first executive director. She moved to Kamehameha Schools in 2001, to administer Kealii Pauahi Foundation, returning to REHAB in 2004 as foundation president. She holds a doctorate of education from UH.

The foundation infuses lifeblood, if you will, into the organization so medical staff can focus on healing patients and not be distracted by fundraising or grant seeking chores.

“Our strategy for the capital campaign is to share the powerful stories about our patients’ successes,” Miyataki says. “When people know of the good work we do. They want to get involved.”

Patients’ portraits on the walls of REHAB Innovation Center say it all. There’s Peter Oyama, a stroke victim, now able to paint beautiful works of art. Dawna Zane recovered from spinal cord injury to compete in a wheelchair marathon. Mark Chen overcame the paralysis of a stroke to play golf again.

REHAB helps patients heal faster and better, according to Roe. Some 85 percent of patients return to home or to work. It’s an amazing statistic that positions Hawaii’s REHAB as a leader in its field.

Being a model for the industry means treating patients with the latest technology and recovery tools now available for physical and cognitive disabilities. These are conditions derived from serious injury to muscles, bones, tissues and nervous system, such as strokes or brain trauma.

As Roe puts it, “Our patients often have a complex mix of problems. The more we can do to reduce their stress level and build their confidence in the healing process, the better the results will be.”

Among the innovations at the rehab clinic, what Roe calls “the test bed,” are NeuroRobotics therapies including a bionic leg that allows wheelchair users to stand and walk, and an anti-gravity treadmill devised by NASA that creates a “weightless environment” for physical therapy use.

It’s obvious in the healing arts that the future is now. So Roe and REHAB’s supporters feel a sense of urgency to integrate the best tools and thinking to optimize patients’ recovery.

Hawaii’s isolation makes self-sufficiency an issue.

“We don’t want to have patients go the Mainland for treatments and be away from home,” Roe says. “Recovery is optimized when one is surrounded by family.”

Having a state-of-the-art facility also allows REHAB to attract high-level professionals to add to the quality of patient care.

An architect of healing must consider integration of services as well. That applies to internal operations as well as external satellite clinics such as REHAB’s Aiea and Hilo facilities. With Roe’s international connections, particularly his experience in China with the Cheng Health Foundation, that intellectual sharing can be global as well.

So there’s a lot on the drawing boards for REHAB’s new president-CEO. But Roe is energized and excited about his mission. It’s what he does.

His personal “therapy” for unwinding from a busy day at the office is to hike with friends in the East Oahu mountains, stand-up paddle in the ocean with his two daughters, and enjoy dining with his wife, Dr. Meng Yu Cheng Roe, also on REHAB’s medical staff.

Seemingly the new REHAB leader has sound designs on his career and family life. It speaks to the heart of what patients seek as well. They want ultimately to get over the barrier of a disability to be with loved ones and to live vibrantly.