Care For The Underserved

By Sheila Beckham
Wednesday - January 28, 2009
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By Sheila Beckham
Executive Director, Waikiki Health Center

I thought I knew about Waikiki Health Center’s great work, but I had no conception of the talent. When I arrived here a year ago, I saw the amazing creativity and how everyone is willing to go the extra mile.

With a staff of 70, we provide more than 18,000 medical visits a year to nearly 6,000 patients.

I am delighted and grateful - but not surprised - that Waikiki Health Center was honored with a 2008 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award by the Hawai`i Psychological Association.

We are here for everyone who turns to us - but we particularly want to see that those who are uninsured and underserved have a “medical home.” Two-thirds of our patients are living at or below poverty level. That may surprise people who associate Waikiki only with wealth.


Waikiki residents include seniors living on fixed incomes, the uninsured, teenage runaways and the homeless. We’re in the heart of Waikiki, but most of our patients are the poorest of the poor.

To correct a misnomer: We started here in 1967, but we’re not just in Waikiki! We operate a North Shore clinic, and our Care-A-Van homeless outreach program uses a Mobile Medical Clinic - the only one on Oahu - and medically equipped vans to bring our services to those who can’t come to us.

I think a person’s family helps shape who you become and your outlook on life. I was so fortunate to have the parents I did. We went to Russia, Africa and so many other places together. I feel I was given everything - not just things, but values and experiences.

The Waikiki Health Center leadership team (front, from left) Adrianna O’Donnell, Sheila Beckham, Lisa Mantooth (back) Jeff Kaplan, Darlene Hein, Marc Gannon, Linda Ross, Francine Dudoit and Elliot J. Kalauawa

My father was a doctor, and that influenced my interest in the medical field. I began teaching at the University of Hawaii’s School of Public Health and expected to make university education my profession. But that’s not what life had in store for me. To get community experience, I went to work for a health center - and stayed for nearly 25 years.

I constantly ask: What can I do to help others? In that, I’m far from alone. Our staff and their families organize food drives and fundraisers. Our amazing volunteers Doris and Nan have helped Waikiki Health Center for more than 10 years. Doris provides clerical help, and sewed the curtains for our clinic. Nan makes sure our thank-you letters get mailed in a timely fashion, and is a Friendly Neighbors volunteer.

What impresses me most is that our patients are vested in the center! They want to give back as they have been helped.

Waikiki Health Center is one of 14 Hawaii community health centers. All the others receive federal funding for Primary Care. We don’t, largely because of our Waikiki location. Among all the health centers, we rely the heaviest on private donations to sustain our general operations. Foundations, corporations and individuals provide 22 percent of our operating costs. As a Federally Qualified Health Center, we receive some federal funding to serve the homeless.

We’re pleased that 89 percent of our revenue goes toward program services.

We invite you to learn more about what Waikiki Health Center can offer you as a patient, volunteer or donor by visiting our website at


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