UH Med Now
UH JABSOM thanks Art Ushijima for decades of support for Native Hawaiian Health and the medical school
Art Ushijima at the lectern, in the JABSOM café. August 27, 2019. Deborah Manog Dimaya photos.
By Tina Shelton, JABSOM Communications Director
No child was ever turned away. No stigma was cast on anyone struggling with mental health.
These are simple words, but when spoken about a hospital administrator, the administrator of the state’s largest hospital system, they constitute powerful praise.
Those heartening things and more were said in a ceremony hosted by University of Hawaiʻi (UH) medical school Dean Jerris Hedges honoring Art Ushijima, who is retiring in January 2020 as President and CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems, a job he has held for nearly 30 years.
Speaking on behalf of psychiatry, one of the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) clinical departments whose faculty is based on the campus of The Queen’s Medical Center, Dr. Earl Hishinuma said, “There was never a stigma attached to mental health care, ever during Ushijima’s term as President and Chief Executive Officer of Queen’s.”
Dr. Kenneth Nakamura, whose JABSOM pediatrics faculty is based at Kapiʻolani Medical Center, part of a different health system, said, “No child was ever turned away, a bed was always found for a child at Queen’s when it was needed while Art Ushijima was CEO.”
The praise flowed in additional comments by UH President David Lassner, Dean Hedges and each of the remaining UH JABSOM clinical chairs, not the least of which Dr. Keaweʻaimoku Kaholokula of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health. Kaholokula wrote a Mele Kūō (chant of praise) He Mele No Arthur A. Ushijima, in honor of the retiring CEO, performed by leaders of the department.
Kaholokula said that under Ushijima, The Queen’s Health Systems provided funding which helped spur the founding of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health within JABSOM at UH. It remains the only clinical department within an accredited medical school in the United States dedicated to the health of an indigenous people.
During Ushijima’s term leading Queen’s, its Board of Trustees has contributed more than $10 million to support medical education at UH JABSOM in three key areas:
“What’s my legacy? I have none–but I work for one,” Ushijima said when it was his turn to speak. “It is the legacy of our founders. Whatever we all have done, it’s the translation of that mission to improve the health of Native Hawaiians and all the people of Hawaiʻi.”
He smiled then when he said, “It’s kind of ironic to have a bunch of doctors say nice things about a hospital administrator.” After the laughter died down, he continued. “I am a great admirer of physicians and what they do. It starts with physicians; you provide the leadership and it’s an important role that you serve.”
Ushijima also thanked former psychiatry chair and former QHS Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Naleen Andrade (JABSOM MD 1982 ) for helping him to really understand Hawaiian history, the legacies of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV and to help him really understand the issues Natives Hawaiians face. “I’m really proud Queen’s has had a role in forming the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the medical school and UH,” said Ushijima.
During the ceremony, JABSOM presented Ushijima with a precious gift, a tri-colored emerald green rooster hackle feather lei. Created by artist Mark Mapuanaoleloalohi Chun, each feather was intended to represent the thousands of people Ushijima interacted with during his career. He also was presented a doctor’s white coat, embroidered with the JABSOM logo and his name, much to his delight. Dr. Michele Carbone, JABSOM Faculty and former director of the UH Cancer Center, thanked Ushijima for playing a critical role supporting the creation of the Hawaiʻi Cancer Consortium, strengthening the UH Cancer Center as it sought a renewed National Cancer Center designation.
Ushijima noted that Dean Jerris Hedges personally funded the retirement celebration held for him at JABSOM, which included hula performances by Ka Pa Hula o ka Lei Leihua and music by Eric Lee, Keoni Kū, and Keokina Kāne. “I am grateful for this recognition,” said Ushijima.