HHS Deputy Secretary visits Kakaako for rare update and strategy session on Hawaii, Pacific Health

Eric Hargan is Chief Operating Officer of the largest department in the federal government

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina M Shelton, (808) 554-2586
Dir of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine
Posted: Oct 24, 2019

HHS Deputy Secretary Hargan greets JABSOM Interim Associate Dean Lee Buenconsejo-Lum at UH Kakaako
HHS Deputy Secretary Hargan greets JABSOM Interim Associate Dean Lee Buenconsejo-Lum at UH Kakaako

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Eric D. Hargan spent several hours recently on the campus of the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Kakaʻako, listening to input from those who partner with UH to help prevent cancer, reduce communicable disease, improve healthcare access and develop health workforces throughout Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

The deputy secretary’s visit, a stop-over on his way to a meeting of Health Ministers of the G-20 International Forum, provided a rare opportunity for leaders from each of the partnerships to address the second highest ranking person in healthcare in the U.S. government. HHS is the largest department in the federal government and has an annual budget in excess of $1.3 trillion and more than 80,000 employees across 26 divisions. Deputy Secretary Hargan is the chief operating officer responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations and management of the department in addition to leading policy and strategy development.

“It is a rare occurrence and a significant honor to work one-on-one with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Health,” said Dr. Neal Palafox, UH John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Professor of Family Medicine and UH Cancer Center Professor of Cancer Prevention in the Pacific, who was asked to organize the briefing.

The deputy secretary's invitation to meet with the UH team came some 72 hours before the meeting took place, and led to a frantic scramble to adjust schedules and call all the parties to the table. Palafox recalls wondering to himself,  "How should we showcase the institutions, people, and the projects who/ which are the academic change agents for the Health and Health Care of the Indigenous People of Hawaiʻi and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific? What information should he know about the challenges and successes, who should present that information, and how would he remember the Pacific?

"Everyone we asked graciously accepted the invitation and came together on short notice," said Palafox. "Dr. Hargan listened attentively to rapid-fire, rich presentations which were especially relevant to the G-20 discussions, since much of the U.S. Affiliated Pacific is resource limited, geographically isolated, is affected drastically by the changing physical/policy environment, and is economically challenged within the global economy."

Presentations presented to the Deputy Secreatary included those by:
University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center, NCI Designated – Director, Randall Holcombe,
University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine – Associate Dean, Alan Otsuki
Pacific Island Health Officers Association (PIHOA) – Deputy Director Janet Camacho and Epidemiologist Dr. Haley Cash
(Organization of Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Directors of Health in the USAPI)
UH JABSOM Department of Native Hawaiian Health – Professor and Chair Dr. Keawe Kaholokula
University of Hawaiʻi System – Director of Health Science Policy Dr. Aimee Grace
Pacific Regional Central Registry – Professor and DIO Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum
Pacific Islands Primary Care Association (PIPCA) – Director Clifford Chang (Organization of all the HRSA Community Health Centers in the USAPI)
Children Healthy Living Project (CHL) – Dr. Rachel Novotny
Nursing Workforce Development in the Pacific – Associate Dean Dr. Kristine Qureshi
Area Health Education Center (AHEC) – Director Dr. Kelley Withy
Pacific Basin Telehealth Resource Center (PBTRC) – Co-Director Christina Higa
NIH Multi-Ethnic Cohort Study- Dr. Loïc Le Marchand
TB Prevention and Control in the USAPI – Dr. Richard Brostrom
US Preventive Services Task Force – Member – UH JABSOM Professor Chien-Wen Tseng
Stark and Anti-Kickback Laws – Primary Care Reflection – UH JABSOM Professor and Chair Dr. Allen Hixon
Cancer Prevention and Control in the USAPI: Cancer Council of the Pacific Islands—Professor Neal Palafox

Palafox later found that a recommendation from several CDC Program and Institutional Officials to the Office of the Deputy Secretary is how and why he wanted to meet. In assisting with the rapid-fire logistics, Palafox offered a “special salute” to the organizational efforts of Mavis Nitta, Cathy Zhang, Dioreme Navasca, Janos Baksa and Melia Young.

For more information, visit: https://jabsom.hawaii.edu/hhs-deputy-secretary-visits-kakaako-for-rare-upda