Spotlight on Hawai’i

Our CEO, Dr. Knudsen, provides us with deeper insights into the impactful work being done in the Pacific Islands.

Any Disney fan can tell you that “ohana means family,” and of course we take that to heart around ACS. Read this week’s CEO Update to hear about a distinctive journey for our CEO Karen Knudsen, MBA, PhD, to Honolulu. She also sheds light on how we are contributing to HPV vaccinations to fight HPV-related diseases such as cervical cancer. 

Below is Dr. Knudsen’s email in its entirety that she shared with staff organization wide from her recent trip to O’ahu on Friday, January 28, 2022.

Aloha! This past week, I had the pleasure of visiting the ACS Ohana on the ground in Honolulu, where we have our only Hope Lodge in the West region. Our presence there is mission critical — for the majority of Hawai’i residents, Honolulu is the main location for advanced cancer care. Imagine the barriers to care that are required when you need to travel to a completely different island for cancer care, and you will then understand why our work in Hawai’i is so important. I also had a chance to meet with our local volunteer board chair, Dr. Morita, who demonstrates the incredible commitment of the overall ACS community to reduce the cancer burden in the Pacific Islands. 

This goal is all the more essential when one understands the unique cancer challenges faced by Hawai’i residents. This is something that I have come to appreciate deeply, in my role as the vice chair of the University of Hawai’i Cancer Center (UHCC) external advisory board. This is the only NCI-designated cancer center in Hawai’i, with a catchment area that includes both the Hawaiian Islands as well as the US-affiliated Pacific Islands, including Guam. 

The catchment area for this center is larger than any other. It covers seven million square miles (which is approximately double the size of the continental US) and more than two million individuals. Working together with the local health systems in the Hawai’i Cancer Consortium, the UHCC is laser focused on research and clinical care to address the issues in the catchment area, which include a high cancer incidence, and unique risk factors for both lung and oral cancers. Cancer incidence and mortality vary greatly amongst the five major racial/ethnic groups in Hawai’i (Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, and Whites), with cancer mortality highest for both men and women in Native Hawaiians. The cancer center research teams at UHCC are world-class, and as appropriate have a major emphasis on discerning the basis of cancer disparities.

I am so proud of our efforts in Hawai’i to enrich the research programs, directly support patients in key areas of need, and to coordinate advocacy work that directly influences the effort to reduce cancer. Some recent examples are: 

Our Advocacy efforts successfully urged Gov. Ige to veto a bill that would have eliminated the funding stream for the state’s tobacco control program. Volunteers advocated throughout the legislative session on this issue and had letters to the editor published in every newspaper in the state highlighting the importance of the program. Nearly 31% of Hawai’i’s youth use e-cigarettes, making clear the need for sustained tobacco control funding. Critically, these funds support cancer research in Hawai’i.

In our Discovery work, we recently provided $20,000 to Hawai’i Pacific Health, a member of the Hawai’i Cancer Consortium, who is participating in our 2022 CHANGE grant focusing on lung cancer screening at three sites in Hawai’i: two sites in O’ahu and one site in Kaua’i.  

In our Patient Support work, we help cancer patients every day at the Hope Lodge facility in Honolulu, with transportation and lodging. We’ve also given transportation grants to two Hawai’i Cancer Consortium institutions, as well as transportation and lodging grants to the Hilo Medical Foundation. And we are very grateful for our relationship with Hawaiian Airlines charity miles program, which can help offset some of the costs for patients flying to get treatment.

Many thanks to Nannette AkauMichelle Hashimoto, Deb Jeffers, and everyone else I saw there who gave me a fabulous tour of this remarkable facility that offers peace to so many. Mahalo!

Pictured is ACS CEO, Karen Knudsen with Hope Lodge Manager, Michelle Hashimoto and Hope Lodge Assistant Manager, Nannette Akau
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