West Oahu Magazine 2023

In fast-growing West O‘ahu, there are strong demands for quality education, a dynamic workforce and health care services. Meet some of the people and companies who are rising to address the area’s needs with passion, commitment and vision.
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Photo: David Croxford

Table of Contents

Letter from the Chancellor of UH – West O’ahu

The Workforce: Preparing for Today, and Tomorrow

Connecting Employers to Talent

Building for the Future

Greater Access to Care


Company Profiles

Queen’s Medical Center – West O’ahu

Island Pacific Academy



Letter from the Chancellor of UH West O‘ahu

Mbenham Photo CmykThe University of Hawai’i-West O’ahu serves as an anchor institution that sparks thoughtful and meaningful change through academic excellence, innovative programs, and place-based instruction to support our west-side region.

Our commitment to workforce development in areas such as health professions, including nursing, early childhood education, and teacher preparation, ensures that the Kapolei and greater communities will be fortified with visionary leaders. Foundational programs such as accounting and behavioral health/psychology, alongside innovative projects in artificial intelligence and digital media, cybersecurity, and cyber operations, tackle the challenges of our 21st century.

Our value proposition places the learner at the center of all our efforts, elevating opportunities for our students to engage with the business community to integrate theory and practice with real-world implications.

We welcome you to learn more about UH West O‘ahu and join us on our journey to elevate our community and those around us!

E mālama pono!



Dr. Maenette K.P. Benham

Chancellor, UH West O‘ahu



The Workforce: Preparing for Today, and Tomorrow

Creating vital pathways for future teachers and nurses.
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Photo: Aaron Yoshino

The University of Hawai‘i West O‘ahu (UHWO) is working to address a critical shortage of qualified teachers. It graduated 42 newly minted teachers in Spring 2023, including 32 elementary and 10 middle school/high school teachers—who were promptly hired.

“Our candidates are always sought-after,” says Mary F. Heller, PhD, professor and chair of the school’s Division of Education. Equally important, 85% of UHWO education-program alumni since 2006 are still teaching in Hawai‘i schools. “That is a phenomenal percentage considering the national data on teachers dropping out of the profession after five years,” says Heller. The school’s Ho‘opuliko Kumu Hou Program supports middle and secondary candidates with a teacher preparation program grounded in Hawaiian Culture Based Education (HCBE). Once graduated, UHWO alum build their confidence by meeting with faculty and their peers with a supportive new-teacher hui that meets at least once a semester.

About a third of the education majors are Native Hawaiian or part Native Hawaiian, and many graduates remain in West O‘ahu to teach. “Our students become teachers because they love working with children and young adolescents,” says Heller. “They understand that teaching is the ultimate act of service.”

Students who are being called into another service-oriented profession—nursing—have a new opportunity with the UHWO’s Pre-Nursing Pathway program. It allows students to do their prerequisite coursework at UHWO, then transfer into University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s nursing program to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, yet all classes are taught at the UHWO location. “The program was designed so students are cohorted in smaller class sizes; wraparound services and extra support are provided all without compromising the rigor of the program,” says Nicole Akana, co-coordinator for the Pre-Nursing Pathway Program. The pilot group started in fall of 2022, with 21 students, and cohort 2 starts in fall 2023 with about 30 students, and the first graduating class is expected in fall 2027. Benefits include savings on tuition and time spent on transportation, as well as an educational model that supports students from Indigenous backgrounds. “Our curriculum includes native values and tradition, such as mele, oli and Hawaiian protocol,” says Akana. “Students participate in several courses that educate and train them with a sense of place and understanding of the ‘āina. … Our goal is to build a sense of pride and stewardship among our students to sustain a long-lasting positive impact on the community.”

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Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Another new development is opening up routes to education—literally. The Skyline rail’s Hālaulani station is in the parking lot of Leeward Community College, while the Keone‘ae station serves the UHWO campus. It’s a boon for students who want to either transfer in from LCC or take classes concurrently, expanding the course offerings a student can take, and can also help faculty with their transportation needs. The transfer option has been particularly popular with psychology, elementary education, and accounting students.


Queen’s Medical Center – West O‘ahu

From primary care to emergency care, to a wide range of specialty services, The Queen’s Medical Center – West O‘ahu in ‘Ewa Beach provides families with access to high quality health care conveniently located in their neighborhood. We are firmly committed to ensuring that we are delivering on our commitment of ensuring access to care by honoring the legacy of our founders, Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV, by becoming lifetime partners in health for Native Hawaiians and all of the people of Hawai‘i.

Queen’s-West offers an array of services include gastroenterology, cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, ear, nose & throat (ENT), adult primary care, sports medicine, rehabilitation, women’s health, cancer care, and much more.

Queen’s also offers other health care options to those living in the ‘Ewa/Kapolei region. At EmPower Health, located at the corner of Kapolei Parkway and Keoneula Boulevard, we focus on a multidisciplinary approach to health care where patients are cared for by their core health care team. With our comprehensive primary care services for whole families, convenient location, on-site parking, as well as the added services of Diagnostic Laboratory Services and Queen’s Island Urgent Care, our patient population has grown in part through word of mouth and trusted communication throughout the community.

The Queen’s Health System is proud to have a dedicated team of caregivers who continue to demonstrate unwavering perseverance, innovation, and aloha on a daily basis as part of our ongoing commitment to delivering high quality compassionate care to all of our patients.

(808) 691-3000



Preparing Students to Navigate in an Uncertain World
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Students at Island Pacific Academy. | Photo: courtesy of Island Pacific Academy

Just as the original Hawaiian navigators crossed the ocean to islands they had never before been to, educators are preparing students for an unknown future—for working in careers that may not yet exist.

“Part of our mission is to be navigators of change,” says Gerald Teramae, Head of School at Island Pacific Academy, located in Kapolei. “We’re a college preparatory school, and 100 percent of our students graduate and get into at least one college. That said, we’re looking at a holistic perspective on teaching and learning. We don’t know what issues and challenges may be forthcoming in careers; we know we must prepare students for careers where they will likely change jobs a lot, and for entering professions in a global society.” That’s why IPA hones what Teramae calls “21st century skills.” Academic knowledge is important, he stresses, but so are the school’s core values: human kindness, generosity of spirit, having a growth mindset, a commitment to excellence, and ingenuity.

Teramae also notes that the school is committed to providing opportunities for all families on the West Side, and that many have been able to take advantage of financial aid or financial support.

Next year, Island Pacific Academy will celebrate its 20th anniversary, and many of the early graduates are now entrenched in the workforce—living throughout Hawai‘i, across the U.S., and internationally and able to serve as true networking partners for current students. Additionally, the school is in the process of developing an intern mentorship program specifically for juniors and seniors. “We need to move away from the mindset of ‘high school students cannot do internships; they are too young.’ I think we are behind if we wait,” says Teramae. “Let’s give them the experience while they are in high school, connect them with organizations so they can experience the career or profession first-hand. There are great opportunities on the West Side for internships at both for-profit and nonprofit companies. You don’t have to go into Honolulu to get that experience.”


Island Pacific Academy

Island Pacific Academy is West O‘ahu’s premier choice for a quality K-12, independent, college and future-focused school. “Our vision is to provide a place where students grow into confident, caring, contributing citizens able to succeed in an ever-changing world,” says Head of School Gerald Teramae. We encourage students to learn through experimentation as they become imaginative, independent, self-directed individuals in a culture where values matter. We nurture curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking so students learn to apply knowledge to real world challenges. We equip students to become Navigators of Change – and go forward with confidence into careers that have yet to be created, using technology that has yet to be invented, solving problems that have yet to be recognized.

(808) 674-3523




Connecting Employers to Talent

In an incredibly tight labor market, staffing requires more than a want ad.

An employee shortage can bring even the most popular of establishments to its knees—and in some cases, kill off a business entirely. “There is definitely a labor shortage,” says human resources specialist Danielle De Lima, CEO of Superior Staffing and Services.

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Photo: Aaron Yoshino; Courtesy of Danielle De Lima

After more than 15 years in staffing, she launched her own Kapolei-based company in January 2022, seeing a need for a staffing agency on the West Side. It’s also a way to serve her community, she says. “I live on Kaupe‘a Hawaiian Homestead and I’m very proud to be Native Hawaiian. I want to encourage people, and especially motivate women to become business owners.”

Recruiters like her, “have a big role to play in this market,” she says. “Recruiting is a skill set and a lot of small businesses miss the mark on this. They think it’s just putting out an ad or hiring friends or family.” With Hawai‘i’s unemployment rate at a mere 3 percent, according to the latest data from the Hawai‘i State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), more thoughtful hiring approaches are called for. Says De Lima, “I don’t think the concept of using staffing agencies has really caught on with some sectors. Especially with hospitality and retail businesses, they are used to hiring walk-ins. I wish businesses knew that there’s an HR skill set you need.”

She sees a growing demand for workers on the West Side in nonprofit, health care and hospitality industries. Her advice to those in the hiring seat? “I like to educate clients on a healthy pay range,” De Lima says. “Pay a little more and attract the right people. It’s an upfront cost, but it takes so much effort and money when you have a high turnover. Think about how many more sales can you make with experienced staff on the line versus training someone and having to do a three- to six-month ramp up. People forget to do the math to calculate the loss when you have high turnover.”

She also sees an opportunity to better connect job seekers with employers on the West Side. “There are a lot of readiness programs for industries for people to develop skills or certifications,” she says. But, “I think the gap is placing them into the field. We’re equipping people but the bridge to employment isn’t always there. You have to know who needs these workers and come up with a pipeline that is a feeder,” she suggests, adding this is “an opportunity to fix a lack of relationships.” She also sees room for workshops on interviewing skills, communication skills, and creating résumés (writing those correctly is especially important in the era of AI screening of applicants). “I want people to be successful in finding jobs,” she says. “I try to prepare them during the screening process about how to be authentic to who they are and what they can bring to the table.”



Building for the Future

Steady construction means the workforce needs to be built up, too.
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Photo: Getty Images

Construction in West O‘ahu continues briskly, says Keoki Fo, general manager for Island Ready Mix Concrete, Inc., a locally owned and operated concrete company based in Kapolei.

Higher interest rates, permitting issues and inflation have impacted projects, and in some cases halted them entirely. But plenty of others, such as Ho‘opili, move forward. “There’s a lot of infrastructure work going on there,” says Fo of the planned 11,750-home community in Kapolei and ‘Ewa Beach. That includes work for the new East Kapolei High School, being planned to address the area’s fast-growing population. “There are also a lot of commercial and industrial warehouses and spaces coming up in Campbell Industrial Park and the harbor,” reports Fo.

Island Ready Mix Concrete has resumed using CarbonCure technology, which injects captured carbon dioxide into fresh concrete, where it becomes permanently embedded. It helps reduce the carbon footprint of construction, and also makes the concrete slightly stronger. “We’re now putting that technology into 100% of our projects,” says Fo.

As is the case in many industries, Fo says finding workers remains a challenge. “Most of my employees are mixer drivers, and it’s hard to find drivers. Everyone is looking for drivers,” he says. “I wish there were more programs on the West Side that could inform people that it’s not just driving a truck; it’s a career. We want to work with universities and high schools, to let young people know about the job opportunities in concrete, with steady work, good pay and benefits.” The work, he says, would also appeal to someone who wants to be outdoors and doing different things all the time. “It’s an adventure every day, a new job site, different kinds of concrete,” he says. “It’s satisfying as they are also able to look back and see something that has been completed and know they helped build something.”



Greater Access to Care

Creating a centralized location for care and offering state-of-the-art techniques brings better results to cancer patients.
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Paula Lee, MD, Gynecologic Oncologist and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine | Photo: courtesy of Hawai’i Pacific Health

“There’s a big push in population health to bring the health care to the communities instead of expecting them to come to us,” says Paula Lee, MD. Lee is a gynecologic oncologist and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine.

“Having the presence here and having the foresight to open on the West Side is really a testament of what Hawai‘i Pacific Health is trying to achieve,” says Lee. HPH’s Dr. James T. Kakuda Cancer Center at Pali Momi Medical Center serves patients in Central and West O‘ahu areas in one, centralized location. Having this type of integrated care means cancer patients do not need to drive into downtown or make stops at multiple facilities for things like infusions, radiation, or blood draws. “Having a new diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming to the patient and also to their family,” says Lee. Many female cancer patients are their family’s primary caregivers, which can make time-consuming weekly treatments such as chemotherapy especially challenging. “Cancer usually requires multimodal therapy, with different physicians in different specialties. Having everything in one place helps with patients’ ability to carry through with the treatments, to be compliant, to handle the therapies. We also offer telehealth where appropriate to try to fit [care] into their schedules.”

Some of the cutting-edge cancer treatments HPH offers, Lee says, include robotic advanced laparoscopic surgeries for cancer and for other surgeries such as treating endometriosis. Lee notes, “These aren’t offered in many places.” She also cites new techniques such as sentinel lymph node mapping, “which we are incorporating in treating three gynecological cancers, including endometrial, vulvar, and cervical cancers.” It takes certain training and a comfort level for physicians to use this method, she says, “so even in the continental U.S., not everyone offers that.”

Her advice to women when it comes to their health? When it comes to both routine screening appointments and anytime changes in the body are noticed, don’t wait. “Get an evaluation,” urges Lee. “You have to care for yourself before you can care for others.”


 Pali Momi Medical Center and Straub Medical Center

Pali Momi Medical Center was founded by a physician, Dr. Joe Nishimoto, to serve the families of Central and West O‘ahu. More than 30 years later, the focus remains the same; to provide patients high-quality care close to home.

Pali Momi’s standard of care is nationally recognized. The medical center has earned Healthgrades Outstanding Patient Experience award for the past five years, which places it among the top 15% of hospitals nationwide.

Pali Momi is home to Central and West O‘ahu’s only interventional cardiac catheterization unit, which helps detect and treat heart disease, a comprehensive women’s center and one of the largest centers for cancer care in Hawai‘i. A new pulmonology clinic now provides screening and minimally invasive treatment for lung cancer.

Straub Medical Center was also founded by a physician, Dr. George Straub, as a place where families could receive all the care they needed in one space. Now, more than a century later, Straub neighborhood clinics make seeking high-quality care even more convenient for families in Central and West O‘ahu.

Straub’s Kapolei Clinic and Urgent Care is open until 8 p.m. daily, so patients can see a doctor after work. Specialty services include women’s health as well as cardiology, sports medicine and orthopedics for both adults and children.

Hawai‘i Pacific Health has committed to making health care easily accessible in Central and West O‘ahu, with more than 13 new centers and clinics connected to Pali Momi and Straub all dedicated to their mission, to create a healthier Hawai‘i.


In West O‘ahu, increasing access to high-quality health care and addressing health inequities are the goals.

The Queen’s Medical Center-West O‘ahu, has expanded access to care in several areas, including Women’s Health services.

“Earlier this year, we installed a second 3D tomosynthesis mammography unit used in breast cancer screenings,” says Robin Kalohelani, RN, MSN/ Ed, CCM, vice president of operations at The Queen’s Medical Center-West O‘ahu and associate chief nursing officer. “This form of technology combines multiple x-rays, generating a three-dimensional image of the breast. This addition helps increase access and availability to this important imaging test.”

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Photo: courtesy of Queen’s Health System

In addition, Queen’s Medical Center-West O‘ahu opened a new radiation therapy department and expanded its cancer clinic and chemotherapy infusion center to become one, comprehensive cancer center. In October, Queen’s Medical Center-West O‘ahu also is expecting to have in place a second 128-slice CT scanner. “This state-of-the-art piece of equipment will be able to offer cardiac-computed tomography scans that can reveal issues with a heart’s structure, valves, arteries and aorta,” explains Kalohelani. It will enhance the availability of biopsies and other CT-guided special procedures, she says. In addition to the hospital at Queen’s-West, Kalohelani notes that the 2020 opening of EmPower Health in the ‘Ewa-Kapolei region “is a testament to ensuring that we are delivering on our commitment of expanding care.” EmPower Health focuses on a multidisciplinary approach, with patients being cared for by a core health care team (including physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses, and medical assistants) as well as receiving support services like physical therapy, dietitians, pharmacists, behavioral health specialists, care coordinators, social workers and patient educators. The Queen’s Island Urgent Care and Diagnostic Laboratory Services are also located in the same building. The goal is to empower patients by addressing prevention as well as active health-care needs.

“We know there is a high demand for health care services in West O‘ahu,” says Kalohelani. “That’s why we are committed to investing and being a part of the community with a focus on ensuring access to care for everyone.”



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