Last month, Dr. Valerie Chock and her colleagues at Stanford University made international news for their care of a premature infant, which included the successful implantation of a life-saving pacemaker into the tiny baby within the first 15 minutes of its life.
Dr. Chock is proud to be a 1998 graduate of the University of Hawai’i’s medical school. “Consistent exposure to amazing role model physicians is a remarkable characteristic of the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM),” Chock said.
Among those who inspired Chock to specialize in neonatology was Pediatrics Chair Kenneth Nakamura. Nakamura, a 1979 graduate of JABSOM, was appointed chair of Pediatrics last year, during a ceremony in which several school and community leaders made it clear that they, too, are inspired by his professionalism, skills and leadership.
Nakamura’s Journey to Chair Pediatrics
Hawai’i Pacific Health (HPH) President and CEO Chuck Sted said at that time, “There is no more complicated enterprise or endeavor than leadership in health care. We were so pleased when Ken accepted (as Chair).” With Nakamura’s experience with HPH’s Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children (KMCWC), Sted said, “He will help all of us move farther and faster than we could any other way.”
KMCWC is JABSOM’s primary partner in training medical students and post MD specialists in pediatrics. (Shriners Hospital for Children, The Queen’s Medical Center and Tripler Army Medical Center also participate in the training program, along with several clinics throughout Hawai’i.) Nakamura serves on the board of HPH and is Chief Medicial Officer of Kap’iolani Medical Specialists, overseeing 145 employees, including 90 physicians. He also is president of the Hawai’i Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics.
“This was a national search,” said Dr. Roy Magnusson, JABSOM Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, in reference to the process of appointing Nakamura the new chair of Pediatrics. “It was clear at the onset that Ken was likely to bubble to the top of the applicant field,” Magnusson said. “What impressed me was that he was very thoughtful and was an extremely good listener. Ten minutes after one interview was complete, he had already incorporated what he learned into his next set of interviews,” said Magnusson, noting that there were dozens of screening interviews. Overall, Magnusson said, Nakamura impressed him as “incredibly collaborative.”
Transition at Pediatrics
True to his collaborative nature, Dr. Nakamura emphasized there are many role models in JABSOM’s Department of Pediatrics, including Dr. Raul Rudoy, who served as the previous chair for 13 years.
In the ceremony honoring Dr. Rudoy (held simultaneously with the event welcoming Nakamura as Chair), Dr. Rudoy had the room full of JABSOM faculty and training partners roaring with laughter.
“I have been able to survive four deans and that’s my true accomplishment!” said Rudoy. “And six of the 13 years (as chair) were wonderful!”
The laughter turned into applause and a standing ovation for Rudoy’s accomplishments. Among them, noted by Pediatrics Residency Program Director Dr. Daniel Murai, leading the program to the top third of all pediatric residency programs for board certification passing rates.
“We all feel Dr. Rudoy has left the department in good hands with Dr. Nakamura, but it is true that we see and go farther because we stand on the shoulders of giants,” added Murai. “Thank you, Raul, for sharing your shoulders.”
When asked to describe his vision going forward for the department, Dr. Nakamura said, “to create value for our state in the specialty of pediatrics. Value in the sense of quality, responsibility, service, cost effectiveness and producing the future pediatricians for Hawai’i.”
He also mentioned goals in collaboration (“integrating pediatric services and missions with pediatrics’ community partners”), advocacy, (“not limited to our patients, it also includes advocacy for our students, residents and faculty”) mentoring (“to integrate the generations with shared values while preparing tomorrow’s leaders”), and administrative expertise (“listening, patience, perseverance, change”). Nakamura also said he wants the formally add quality improvement research to the department’s portfolio of research areas.
It’s a lot to accomplish, Nakamura acknowledged, adding that he’s “not shy” about asking for help from the top-notch colleagues in the department, whom he said he is grateful for every day. “I’ve been told I’m good at delegating,” Nakamura said, with a smile. “I took that as a compliment.”
More about Dr. Nakamura:
- He is a graduate of Maui’s Lahainaluna High School, Hawai’i’s oldest public high school, established in 1831.
- One of his favorite quotes is by Albert Schweitzer: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Pictured at top are Dr. Nakamura and Dr. Rudoy, being honored at the Pediatrics event held in September 2011 (Story by Tina Shelton, photos by Arnold Kameda).