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Hawaii Business Magazine’s 20 for the Next 20: People to Watch 2012

20 emerging leaders in local businesses, nonprofits, government, education and law

(page 5 of 21)

Photo: David Croxford

TERESA WONG age 43

Executive director, REHAB Innovation Center

Serendipity is how Teresa Wong describes the origin of the Innovation Center at Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific.

Wong, a physical therapist who heads the center, cut her business teeth during the

dot.com boom in Silicon Valley when she was recruited by a friend to help manage two high-tech startups. That experience made her the prime candidate to head the state-of-the-art center at the state’s only comprehensive medical rehabilitation hospital.

“Rehab’s board chair, John Komeiji, had the brainchild for the center,” says Wong. “He knew my background and came up with the concept of letting me run free and seeing what I could do.”

Wong worked with her Silicon Valley connections, cutting deals for new equipment barely off the assembly line, including an antigravity treadmill based on NASA technology.

“A lot of catastrophic patients feel they need to go to the mainland – to Stanford – but whatever Stanford or MIT have, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have it here,” explains Wong.

Last August, Rehab was named one of the Top 10 Leading Rehabilitation Hospitals in the nation and invited to participate in a multistate research project on the Ekso Bionics exoskeleton technology. The cutting-edge technology was voted CNN’s top 10 Innovations of 2010 and Time magazine’s Top 50 Innovations.

According to Komeiji, under Wong’s leadership, the Innovation Center has created some of the most powerful clinical programs both in Hawaii and nationally. “In addition to an exclusive NeuroRobotics program for stroke survivors using robots for rehabilitation, Teresa has launched a powerful rehabilitation program in partnership with VA Honolulu for veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq that has received attention from national VA leaders,” he says.

Wong’s passion remains working directly with patients and she continues to do so whenever she can.

“It’s an incredible honor to take someone through their journey of recovery,” she says. “And now everything we thought wasn’t possible is possible. Technology changes the world.”

— SYH

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