Tending To Community Health

Dr. Bradley Chun
Assistant clinical director and internist at Kokua Kalihi Valley

Where did you receive your schooling and training?

I went to John A. Burns School of Medicine for my medical degree and I did a three-year internship and residency at the UH internal medicine residency program.


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Dr. Bradley Chun

How long have you been in practice?

Nine years.

What is Kokua Kalihi Valley?

We are a community health center that has been around for 41 years. To understand Kokua Kalihi Valley (KKV), you have to understand a little about Dr. Charles S. Judd Jr. He had a successful practice as a general surgeon in Honolulu and, in the 1960s, took his family on a medical mission for three years to Western Samoa. He became the only surgeon in the country. His specialization was in the treatment of filariasis, which is an infectious parasitic disease that was wreaking havoc on the people of Western Samoa. He went there to do surgical treatment for the complications of filariasis and he also did some general surgery and onco-logical surgical practice there as well, as the only surgeon in the country.

At the end of that time, he returned to Hawaii and, in the early 1970s, he was part of a small organizing group led by our founder, Rev. Jory Watland, who started this organization to improve the health of our community here in Kalihi Valley. Dr. Judd became our first volunteer physician and was the guiding force in a lot of the things we did. He generously donated his time and efforts. He brought in physicians from other hospitals, and he brought in students and residents as well and set us up in the way we approach people and the care of our community.

How is KKV different from other medical facilities?

We are a private, nonprofit organization and a Federally Qualified Health Center. What that means is that like other community health centers we have to meet certain requirements from the federal government. Part of that is we have to be community-based, so our board of directors has to have at least half of its makeup from our patients. We are a small, humble organization with a mission of helping the residents of Kalihi Valley and improving the community by bringing health and reconciliation to our valley.

Our Wellness Center just opened last year. The idea behind it is that KKV is a center not only for medical care but for improving the wellness of our community. Our Roots Café here serves healthy food and is open for lunch two days a week, and we have other programs and activities that support the development of our community economically. We do well-child checks and obstetric exams for pregnant women here as some of the things that help keep our community well.

We treat from before birth through childhood and beyond. We have dedicated staff who take care of our perinatal patients, women who are pregnant. We do intensive case management of that population so that we give the families and children a good chance at life. We have pediatric services and family medicine physicians and nurse practitioners who treat arange of patients. We have internists for adults, which is what I do. We have geriatricians who care for patients at our senior center. We do home visits and palliative care. We run the gamut from before birth through the end of life.

Can you talk about KKV’s holistic approach?

Our mission is to promote healing and reconciliation in Kalihi Valley, and because of that we don’t have only medical and dental services, but also things like Hooulu Aina, our 100-acre nature preserve in the back of Kalihi Valley that’s designed to help people live a healthier way. Some of the things that go on there are removing invasive species and planting native species to restore the native forest, growing Native Hawaiian healing herbs, organic gardening production and distribution of fresh produce to the community and our staff. School groups come to take part in the activities to connect students and youths to culture and to the land. It’s cross-cultural, so it caters not just to Native Hawaiian but to the spectrum of cultures we have in Kalihi: Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Micronesian, Samoan, Tongan, Marshallese, etc.

We also have youth programs and behavioral health programs. We have comprehensive programs and outreach to the community both for medical outreach and preventative measures, like health education in the schools.

You grew up in Kalihi. Did that affect your decision to join KKV?

My father and his grandmother moved to Kalihi Valley from Chinatown in the late 1950s. They had a house here, and when I was born my parents lived in that house. They didn’t have insurance, so they paid cash for the delivery and care of my older brother and me. We lived there from a young age, and the feeling of our neighborhood was very much one of community. Even though we were young, our parents felt comfortable with us going out at night with the older kids because they knew we were safe.

That feeling of community was very strong for me growing up. We moved away when I was 5, but my dad taught at Dole Middle School, just two blocks up the street from KKV for 30-something years. He always talked about how much he loved Kalihi and he felt like he was giving back. He instilled that spirit in me.

When I was a medical student, there were community programs we could elect to join. One of the sites for that was KKV. I did a tour of our old clinic and went around the back, looked over the ravine and there was Dole School. I decided this is it, this is where I want to do my training. My instructors at the time taught me medicine and having their public health and community health perspective, and being trained to work as a team with a whole bunch of different services – those things really made sense to me. I hadn’t found the exact blend I wanted except for here. I was hooked, and luckily when the time came that I was done with my training, this is the first and only job I’ve had.

The work we’re doing is profound and powerful.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’m proud of the work we do and the dedicated staff we have. It’s not easy work, but we have innovative programs. There are a lot of problems in our community, and those are problems we have to deal with. At KKV, health means wholeness. Our hearts are in the right place and we work together to bring healing and reconciliation to our community.