An Ode to Doctors

(Clockwise from bottom left) Drs. Jared Oyama, Christopher Orlang, Loren Yamamoto, Craig Boddy and Emilie Stickley. Photo by Lawrence Tabudlo

The commitment of Hawai‘i Pacific Health’s physicians knows no bounds as they tirelessly serve their patients day-in and day-out.

From the bustling streets of Honolulu to the rural pastures of Hawai‘i island, few communities remain untouched by Hawai‘i Pacific Health’s cadre of dedicated doctors.

Whether navigating a first-time cancer diagnosis or rushing a feverish child to the Emergency Department, patients look to doctors as pillars of support, not only for medical expertise but also for words of comfort and guidance.

In celebration of National Doctors’ Day (March 30), MidWeek presents five remarkable physicians from Hawai‘i Pacific Health’s network, shining a spotlight on their unwavering commitment to patients from Hanalei to Hilo.

Serving The Next Generation

Believe it or not, Dr. Loren Yamamoto — an esteemed educator, medical textbook author and emergency medical physician at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children — was initially rejected from medical school.

Determined to pursue his passion, the Pearl City High School graduate reapplied the following year and was accepted into Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, before eventually transferring to the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine due to a serious case of homesickness.

“I liked nearly all the medical specialties, but I chose pediatrics for my medical residency at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children,” he recalls about selecting his specialty. “While I was a resident physician, I was asked to work in the Emergency Department for a few night shifts. The Kapi‘olani nurses, now all retired, taught me a lot about emergency medicine during those shifts in the ED.”

Since then, Yamamoto has assumed various leadership roles at Hawai‘i’s only full-service children’s specialty hospital, including medical chief of staff. Today, he plays a crucial role in the Level III Pediatric Trauma Center.

“In the distant past, the Kapi‘olani ED doctors covered pediatric trauma at other facilities. We had to drive to other hospital EDs to respond to pediatric trauma cases, if we were on call for them,” Yamamoto recalls. “Now, our patients can receive the care needed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if specialty care is required, at Kapi‘olani.”

Outside of the ED, Yamamoto can be found teaching medical students at his alma mater. The list of things he’s involved in could fill this entire page, which just goes to show how much he loves doing it.

“Teaching is rewarding. It is the absolute best thing about my job,” he says. “While patients greatly appreciate care from a physician, medical students also appreciate the teaching they receive. This appreciation is felt by many who teach and it is why we do it.”

Up For The Challenge

Dr. Craig Boddy thrives when confronted with a challenge. Heck, he’s made an entire career out of it.

Unlike those drawn to rock climbing or bungee jumping, though, the Chicago native seeks his thrills through the ongoing developments at his job.

“I first gained interest in hematology/oncology during medical school when learning about the challenges involved in understanding leukemias and lymphomas,” explains the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago graduate. “It requires constant, lifelong learning because the field is always evolving.”

At Straub Benioff Medical Center and Pali Momi Medical Center’s Dr. James T. Kakuda Cancer Center, Boddy treats patients with blood cancers, such as lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. He also sees patients with bleeding disorders at the Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children’s Hemophilia & Thrombosis Treatment Center and offers telehealth visits for patients on neighbor islands.

Speaking specifically about Pali Momi, Boddy says, “(It) brings needed access of specialty, multidisciplinary cancer care to the people of central and west O‘ahu. These areas are more underserved — not too dissimilar from underserved areas on neighbor islands. Nobody dislikes needing to drive into town more than those farthest from Honolulu, which can create huge barriers for patients.

Having such a cancer center that provides excellent care located closer to where patients live is essential for the community.”

Another challenge that Boddy is up for? Clinical trials, and as the local primary investigator on numerous blood-cancer trials, you could say he’s quite involved.

From national cooperative group trials to smaller studies through pharmaceutical companies, Hawai‘i Pacific Health, in partnership with the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, offers a range of treatment options, including immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

When asked for advice for prospective oncologists, Boddy offers these priceless gems:

“First, I would say there remains such a significant need due to oncologist shortages across the state, that they would make an immediate, beneficial impact felt by the community. The people of Hawai‘i are incredible and gracious, and a pleasure to care for. So, I would strongly encourage qualified candidates to practice in Hawai‘i.

“Second, I would emphasize that it’s vital to have a talented and dedicated team to work with, just as I am so fortunate to have. I am grateful to work with the best nurses, physician colleagues, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, pharmacists and so many others, which makes such a difference as we all work together to care for the patient.”

Picture Perfect

Like many newcomers, Dr. Christopher Orlang was enchanted by Kaua‘i’s quintessential perks: rainbows, waterfalls, palm trees and white sandy beaches. Over time, his appreciation for the island evolved past its postcard-perfect facade.

“The island of Kaua‘i is a special community unlike anywhere else,” says the Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica graduate. “Of course, the natural beauty draws people to Kaua‘i, but the people here are the nicest and most welcoming.”

Orlang, who’s come a long way from Detroit, Michigan, is the section chief of radiology at Wilcox Medical Center, the largest healthcare facility on the Garden Isle. As the sole Level III Trauma Center on the island, Wilcox plays an important role in providing urgent medical care, including imaging services, to residents and visitors experiencing life-threatening situations. Patients would otherwise be flown to Honolulu — an easy, breezy 20-minute flight when island hopping, but a potentially detrimental one in a medical emergency.

Thanks to generous donations, Wilcox recently upgraded to a state-of-the-art Philips Spectral CT scanner. According to Hawai‘i Pacific Health, this new technology completes scans in a few minutes — making it ideal for emergencies — and will help to detect, diagnose and monitor both common and chronic diseases, disorders and conditions, including cancer, heart disease and bone fractures.

“This philanthropic support underscores the community’s commitment to advancing healthcare on Kaua‘i,” says Orlang. “This is a tool that helps improve our diagnostic capacity and reduces the need for additional imaging and testing. It can produce exceptionally clear images that offer far more data in a single scan than ever before.”

In 2023, Hawai‘i Pacific Health reported that Wilcox performs approximately 11,000 imaging scans per year, a testament to its impact in the island community.

Heart’s In The Right Place

Dr. Jared Oyama, an interventional cardiologist at Straub Benioff Medical Center, practices within a specialized area, but there’s tons of variability within his day-today, he says, adding that no shift lacks significance.

One day finds him navigating high-tech diagnostic tools or scrubbing in for life-saving procedures. The next, he’s seated with patients in an exam room, delving into their medical history and counseling them on lifestyle changes.

“In cardiology, we get to be on the cutting edge of medicine while still feeling connected to its history and traditions,” says Oyama, an alum of the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine and Hawai‘i Pacific Health’s Summer Student Research Program.

Oyama specializes in min­imally invasive treatments for heart valve disease, in­cluding transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) at the Clarence T.C. Ching Heart Center at Straub Benioff. He explains that while it’s a relatively new surgery, with Straub Benioff’s first procedure taking place in July 2018, it’s emerging as one of the most effective options. The hospital is set to mark its 1,000th surgery later this year, proving its success.

“The TAVR procedure is a less invasive way to replace a narrowed aortic valve, which is the exit door of the heart,” explains Oyama. “Every drop of blood that the body uses needs to go through this valve.

If it does not open properly, the entire body is in need of blood.

“In the past, the only way to treat this problem was to replace the valve through open-heart surgery. With TAVR, the new valve is inserted through a pinky-sized tube at the crease of the thigh and then opened up inside the heart,” he continues. “This avoids the need to open the chest, stop the heart, or be connected to a heart-lung machine. It also means that most patients are walking in the hallway a few hours after the procedure and are going home the following day.

“Because the recovery time from the procedure is minimal, patients can enjoy the benefit of the new valve right away.”

To say that treating patients is rewarding for a doctor is an understatement, and this is especially true for Oyama. From growing up in ‘Aiea to attending medical school in Honolulu and now serving his neighbors at Straub Benioff, the community has always been at the heart of his journey.

“My goal is to be part of a comprehensive heart program that allows patients to receive treatments locally, without having to go to the mainland,” Oyama says.

“Because Hawai‘i is a small place, practicing medicine is much more personal,” he adds. “Some days it seems like every patient I see has some connection through a family member or a friend.”

Who Runs The World?

Long before Dr. Emilie Stickley added that prestigious prefix to her name, she was a young girl navigating life in the Appalachian Mountains.

Growing up in a small town, she bore witness to the harsh realities of rural living, including health disparities and the hurdles faced by underserved populations.

“These experiences instilled in me a personal mission to make a positive impact on the world around me,” says Stickley, a graduate of Northeast Ohio Medical University.

Now serving as the section chief of OB-GYN at Hawai‘i Pacific Health’s University Women’s Health at Hilo, Stickley brings her small-town expertise to the East Hawai‘i island community.

“My husband and I both come from rural and agricultural backgrounds, so we felt a strong connection to the sense of community and the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands,” she says. “As our family began to grow, we knew that we wanted to provide our children with an upbringing that mirrored our own experiences.”

Part of living and working in Hilo means that Stickley has the privilege of delivering a large percentage of the babies born in the region. She proudly notes a significant reduction in cesarean section (C-section) rates over the past five years, calling it one of her team’s greatest successes.

“Given the diverse population we serve at Hilo Benioff Medical Center and the challenges of limited access to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit-level care, we face complexities in medical decision-making that contribute to a high C-section rate. However, through a collaborative effort with the maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children, along with the integration of patient-centered initiatives and evidence-based care, we have successfully lowered the C-section rate below the national benchmark of 23.9%.”

However, her profession is more than just welcoming cute newborns to the world. Thanks to a collaboration with fellow women’s health physicians within the Hawai‘i Pacific Health network, Hilo residents have access to gynecologic oncology, urogynecology and maternal-fetal medicine.

Stickley, a mother of five children and caretaker of dozens of farm animals, is also an assistant professor at the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health. She imparts her wisdom to residents and medical students through hands-on patient care in both the outpatient clinic and operating room.

“By mentoring medical students and residents and participating in academic initiatives, I’m able to play a role in shaping the future of healthcare and ensuring the sustainability of our medical workforce,” she shares.

Guiding women through every phase of their lives — from adolescence to menopause and beyond — Stickley is honored to cultivate long-term relationships with her patients.

“Whether it’s guiding them through pregnancy and childbirth, or addressing their gynecological concerns, I am committed to advocating for the well-being of each person under my care.

“The trust and gratitude of my patients, coupled with the opportunity to serve and advocate for their health and well-being, are what motivates and inspires me.”