Hawaiʻi Life in the Time of COVID-19

Dianne Bowen-Coleman

Dr. Dianne Bowen-Coleman (Dr. Dianne) was born on January 25, 1959 in Huntington, West Virginia. She is passionate about serving the underserved and has devoted her life to promoting the health and wellbeing of Native peoples. At the time this interview was conducted, she served as the Statewide Director of Vision Programs for Project Vision Hawai’i (PVH). In the time of COVID-19, Dr. Dianne pivoted PVH’s vision team to meet the immediate needs in the community. She partnered with the DOE and Chef Hui to provide 100 family sized meals to families of homeless children and youth for six weeks at the beginning of the pandemic. Later on, Dr. Dianne oversaw PVH’s COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, which received state funding. Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Dianne worked tirelessly to meet the evolving needs of the state while maintaining PVH’s vision services amid lockdowns.

Interview Details

  • Narrator: Dr. Dianne Bowen-Coleman (DC)
  • Interviewer: Stephen Pono Hicks (PH)
  • Recording Date: 08/20/2021
  • Format: Zoom video
  • Location: Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
  • Key Words: COVID-19, indigenous health, Native Hawaiian health, Pacific Islander health, optometry

Interview Transcript

PH: Hello, thank you for joining me today, Dr. Dianne. We are doing an oral history interview this morning. Today is August 20th. It is 8:32 a.m., and this interview is being conducted via Zoom. So just to start things off, Dr. Dianne, can you please state your full name?

DC: Sure, and good morning, Pono. My name is Deborah Dianne Bowen-Coleman,

PH: OK, and as a doctor, can you talk a little bit about what first interested you in medicine and public health?

DC: Sure, so I knew from a very early age that I wanted to pursue medicine, I couldn’t possibly tell you what stimulated that interest or what brought about that interest. But I can remember being in 4th grade and knowing that I wanted to pursue medicine. And I remember in junior high, it was called junior high then, I remember in junior high school that I wanted to help people who didn’t have access or couldn’t afford health care. At one point, I thought about being a missionary physician. At another point, I thought about Peace Corps. And again, these are early ages that I’m thinking about these things. But I always had interest in seeing others who didn’t have access to good health care or proper health care, couldn’t afford proper health care. That’s the population that has always interested me and that I wanted to help. I wanted to be one of those in our community that did reach out to this demographic.

PH: Sure. Do you think you always had that desire to give back to the community, or was there any experience in particular that maybe fostered a value of community service in you?

DC: I’ve thought about that a lot, actually. And all I can say is I grew up with one brother and one sister, and my parents were always involved in whatever activities we were doing. So they were role models. And the fact that they were involved with our activities, they were involved with the church, they were involved with the community taught me initially about the importance of serving our community, giving back, helping each other, doing whatever it is that we can do. I remember my mom used to tell me that when she grew up, she said, “they were as poor as church mice.” But her mother always found a way to make sure that somebody else had something to eat and that has stuck with me to this day. Also, growing up, my mom and my dad took in… They were mostly relatives, but anybody that needed a place to stay for a period of time, they always took them in. They were always welcoming. I remember an uncle staying with us, twin cousins stayed with us through their high school years. And my sister and I were in junior high at that time. But they lived with us. My grandmother lived with us. Just the fact that my parents were willing to bring in others and give them shelter and help them with whatever they needed for the time that they needed also showed me a path forward in service, in giving back, and making sure that others needs were being met.

PH: Thank you. And then I guess as a medical doctor coming here to Hawaii, can you talk a little bit about what gave you a keen interest in promoting the health and well-being of native peoples and especially Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders?

DC: Yes. So I’m Native American Cherokee, and my late husband was Native Hawaiian. And so our daughters are both. When we came back to Hawaii in early 2000, 2002, something like that, our daughters got involved in halau so hula. They went to Kamehameha schools, they took Hawaiian language. They’re proficient in the Hawaiian language. They’re beautiful hula dancers. And my husband worked with the Native Hawaiian community as well. So the fact that our family one way or another are native or indigenous peoples knowing the background, knowing the struggles. Even though we didn’t have those struggles personally, we also know the history and we’re living here. We can see what’s happening or what’s not happening, who is able to receive health care, who’s able to receive resources, who isn’t. And any way that I can to help native and indigenous peoples, that’s what I want to do. That is an important focus for me.

PH: That’s wonderful. Thank you. In your current role with Project Vision Hawaii, can you just talk a little bit about what the mission of Project Vision is and then maybe also how that mission has evolved over the course of this covid-19 pandemic?

DC: Yes, so basically the mission of Project Vision Hawaii is to make sure that the people of Hawaii have access to health care and that’s kind of what we’ve already been talking about just now. And as far as a mission pivot, that really hasn’t changed except to expand, if that’s even possible, with the services. We were able to offer services to meet the changing community need. And I can talk about that now or later if you want.

PH: Yeah. If you could just expand on some of the services that Project Vision Hawaii offers, especially now to meet the needs of people during the pandemic.

DC: OK. So I’m the statewide director of the vision programs of Project Vision Hawaii, and we have two vision programs. We have our Better Vision for Keiki program. That’s our school based program where we do vision screenings in Title I schools. Title I school is a school where the children or the students there, at least half of them are receiving free or reduced lunches. So we offer vision screenings there for every child and every Title I school across the state unless their parent or guardian opts them out. Then any child that refers on the vision screening or does not pass is referred to our partner Vision to Learn who brings in their mobile clinic and their doctor to do the exams on the children that were the students that were referred and then those students who the doctor thinks needs eyeglasses, they get free eyeglasses. So those are free services from start to finish screening to exam to eyeglasses. Then we have our community based program where we reach keiki to kupuna and again, we’re looking at the keiki. Do they need glasses? We’re looking at adults. Do they need eyeglasses? Do they need referrals because of diabetes or hypertension? What are we seeing in retinal images that might reflect any diseases that they have and then our kupuna are the same, but also do they need reading glasses? So on the day of a community event, an adult or kupuna could walk away with a pair of free reading glasses. So those were the community programs that we were doing pre-pandemic. I also oversee volunteers, interns, practicum students and a STEM grant, so when the pandemic hit, the schools closed down and community events shut down. There were no community events. There was a stay at home order, so that meant there was no vision being done. So with no vision being done. The question is now, what do we do? What do we do with our vision staff across the state? So one of the things that we did was everybody did extra training. So we had required trainings that we had to do during the stay at home. And we went through each one of these trainings. We got our certificates and we shared them with our internal H.R. so that everybody could see the progress of everyone doing all of these extra online trainings. So that was one thing we did.

DC: Another pivot for the vision team because we wanted to make sure that we could keep our team members and not have to let people go and ensure that they were able to keep their jobs after the initial few weeks of extra training, I started out by contacting the person that I’d known for quite a while in the Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth. And I’d been wanting to work with her for a while just the occasion hadn’t arisen yet. And we already have an MOU, a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Education. So with already having that, that transition to education of homeless children and youth within the Department of Education was an easy transition. So I contacted her and said, “hey, how can we work together?” And she had similar concerns herself because she has all these families. And there were just over 3,600 children in the DOE in unstable and unsheltered housing. So 3,600 students across the state. And she’s thinking, how are these children going to get fed? How are these children going to get their food, because many, if not all of them get their food at school. They get breakfast at school, they get lunch at school. And that might be the only two meals they get in a day. So she’s wondering, how are these kids going to get fed? What can we do? And so she is the coordinator across the state for the liaisons that liaise between the Department of Education, Education for Homeless Children and Youth, and these families in unstable housing. So we got together and across the state we put the vision team into action. And our vision team became delivery drivers, basically. So our team would pick up laptops or pick up the homework assignments at the school or some other location and drop it off at a designated location for a particular student or family. They might pick up completed homework from that student or family and then take it back to the school. They delivered across the state, delivered food that was donated by local farmers. We delivered blankets, towels, diapers, formula, school supplies, art supplies, gift cards, all kinds of things just to be able to meet this community need. And on Oahu, we were able to take it a step further. So on Oahu, I have known and worked with a person in Aloha Harvest. And when I called her, she told me that she had retired but told me who to get in contact with currently at Aloha Harvest. And when I spoke with Aloha Harvest, they were very helpful and put me in touch with Chef Hui. So when I got in touch with Chef Hui, they said, “this is fabulous timing because we have this new grant where we can provide family-size meals. How many do you want?” And at that point, I had no idea how many I wanted or needed, but we settled on 100 family-size meals a week for six weeks. And that was a short term grant that they had for six weeks.

DC: So with the Department of Education and Education of Homeless Children and Youth, that coordinator also put me in touch with Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies. So I got in touch with the executive director there. And somehow somebody got my name from University Health Partners Hawaii. So we ended up delivering 100 family-size meals a week for six weeks to the Education for Homeless Children and Youth, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, and University Health Partners Hawaii. And for our drivers on this island, I have photos, they have huge coolers in the back of their cars. And one car was a Mini Cooper. So, I mean, if you can imagine trying to shove two huge coolers into the back of a Mini Cooper. Family-size meals were like a large lasagna, so the family-size meals would feed four to six. So if you had a family of 10, then that family would receive three of those family-size meals. So this team had to figure out… They split the island up. One person took one part and one person took another part. And then they’d have to know, OK, here’s my route, here’s my family’s, here’s my route that makes sense. And the other person had to do the same, and then they had to know how many meals went to each family. So they had to know how many people were in that family. So it was a bit more complicated than it sounds. It’s really more than delivering because there is so much in logistics that had to be figured out but so proud of this transition so proud to have been able to work with Education for Homeless Children and Youth, Chef Hui, and Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies and University Health Partners Hawaii. That changing community need allowed Project Vision Hawaii to pivot and change as well. So not only did staff retain their jobs, but staff developed new skills, had a new or renewed appreciation for changing needs, and they themselves felt really good about what they were doing. They felt very good about what they were doing and were excited to be a part of that and excited to be a part of that change.

DC: The further changes down the road, not just for vision, but most definitely for the vision team. So I just talked about the period from the beginning of April until mid-June. So that’s a little more than six weeks. But in that time frame, that was the six week period really for Chef Hui. Then, on either side of that there’s the DOE deliveres. And the DOE deliveries continued through the summer as needed. But in July, Project Vision Hawaii received funding to start covid testing. So we started covid testing in July. So that was another pivot. And that was a crucial pivot for the vision team as the vision team again is OK, we still have no schools that are open and we have no community events because the community is still shut down. So the vision team on Oahu is going to turn into a covid testing team, and that’s what we did. So we’re still a covid testing team. We are back to doing vision. And I can explain that in a minute or a little bit. But at least in the beginning, yeah, it’s kind of frightening. You don’t know a whole lot about covid-19, the Coronavirus, you hear about the infection rate and the spread, and it reaching the islands, and you hear about outbreaks. And here we are in the thick of it. So going in to different facilities in the beginning where there are outbreaks, it was kind of scary, but after a while, you get confident in what you’re doing. I was confident in my PPE, which consisted of bonnet and booties and a gown over scrubs which were over like, say, biker shorts and a dry fit shirt and then a respirator and a face shield. And I ordered a face shield off Amazon. So I have a really thick, heavy duty face shield. I kind of look more like Darth Vader, but that’s OK because I felt protected, and I feel protected. And the reason for having the dry fit shirt and the biker shorts under your scrubs is when you finish covid testing at an event, especially when there’s an outbreak, you peel everything off and you do so correctly. And by that I mean you’re taking things off towards the outside rather than towards the inside where the virus could get on you and then you roll everything up properly and you shove it into a garbage bag and you pull the garbage bag tight and put that in the back of your car. So then you’re left with your dry fit shirt and your bike shorts that you could wear. So that’s really important, too. And to make sure that when you go from site to site that you have a fresh pair of scrubs each time and with having the shirt and the shorts on underneath, that’s an easy change in public. And you’re containing any virus particles that might be on you within the garbage bag, and then you take care of that once you get home. But that was an important role for us to take on with vision for several reasons. Again, at least on this island that kept the team employed, and it met that community need. And in the beginning, there was a huge need for testing, huge need, because there were outbreaks everywhere, because it was it was all new, and the general population didn’t really have a good understanding. So we did covid testing. We’re still doing covid testing.

DC: Back to why it was so important for the vision team. There are a couple of reasons, not the least of which is keeping everybody employed, as I mentioned. But also being part of the covid testing team and knowing how to don and doff PPE and knowing how to be careful and knowing infectious disease processes and procedures, knowing infectious disease protocols, that put us in a really good position when talking with schools and trying to encourage schools to allow the vision team in again to be able to do vision screenings. So that was certainly one thing that was positive that came out of it was that we could say, “look, we’ve been doing covid testing for X number of months and we know the infectious disease processes. And we can come in and we can screen your school and we can do so safely.” So then one school reached out to me in late November. A vice principal reached out to me and wanted the school to be vision screened. So in early December, we went to this elementary school and we were in complete PPE, just like we were going to be doing covid testing, which was in hindsight, overkill. But again, it was our first school in nine months, which is an extremely long time to go without being in a school and doing vision services. But we were there in full PPE. The school felt confident. I think that the students felt confident. I feel like the teachers felt confident in us being there and doing what we were doing. I also noticed with subsequent schools once we started 2021, that these kids are already learning. These kids are learning that they can’t be too close to the one in front of them, that when they get to the cafeteria they have to sit where the X is, and they can’t sit anywhere else, and they know what door to go in and what door to go out of. So I applaud the students and of course, the teachers for teaching them. But the students make it easier on everybody else by following the instructions of their teachers in the schools. And it makes it easier for us when we step in so we don’t have to… They’re just automatically keeping their distance and not touching things. And that was another thing. We made sure that vision screenings were contactless, so we weren’t handing anything back and forth with the students. At the time we were using paper, we had our own Project Vision Hawaii runner. So we didn’t hand anything to the student. The student did not hand anything back to us. We did not have any contact at all. And we had hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies at each station. And really they’re not touching anything. So the cleaning supplies were there just in case because there was no need to touch anything. So we definitely learned a lot through this process. And I would also say that, and I’ve said this before, the pandemic has been catastrophic and extremely devastating to so many. And it’s just unconscionable and incomprehensible. But Project Vision Hawaii through this pandemic has been able to grow its programs, been able to keep its staff and been able to meet even more community needs. So I think if there’s a positive in all of this, that’s the positive. The positive that the organization has been able to grow, and the organization has been able to grow because it has understood the need to get out there and see, OK, the world is changing around us. What can we do to change with this world, and what needs can we try to meet? And I think that has certainly been a part of helping with the growth and even sustainability.

DC: So back in December, Project Vision Hawaii started vaccinations. So that is also helpful when talking with schools or the community at large trying to get community events. So if our staff is vaccinated, I can go to the school and say our vision team is vaccinated. And that makes the schools feel so much better, feel so much more relieved that they know that they’re not bringing in an unknown factor. They know that they’re bringing in vaccinated individuals. And even now, most especially with the Delta Variant, any of our volunteers, any of our interns, any of our community health worker practicum students that are working with us and will be working with us will have to be vaccinated in order to work in the schools or in the public. It’s just too risky not to have that policy in place because we’re health care, and we need to be good role models in health care. So we started vaccinations, and again, the vision team still doing our covid testing, so we only help them occasionally with vaccinations when that was needed, but our focus was more the covid testing. And then we were able to get into more schools in January and through May. So instead of reaching our usual annual 20,000 students across the state, which is what we were funded for normally, we were able to reach a little over 5,000. And honestly, I wasn’t even sure we were going to reach the 5,000 because you could schedule a school and they could say, “I’m sorry, we just can’t go through with it.” And it could be various reasons: There was a positive, or it was too overwhelming, or they’ve got to catch up with benchmarks, a lot of reasons to cancel or postpone. So I’m very pleased with the 5,055 that we were able to reach this past year. So this coming year, we’re looking at doing 15,000 across the state, and I’m really hoping we reach that number. I was confident because it looked like the state of Hawaii and the pandemic, at least for the state of Hawaii, was going in a better direction. Within Project Vision Hawaii, we were doing more vaccinations and fewer testing. And that also kind of tells you that things are going in a more positive direction. And that was until, of course, recently when the Delta Variant hit the islands. And now there are huge lines for covid testing. I’m still doing covid testing. I’m rushing off today to go do more covid testing. I tested all day yesterday, and we have schools that have booked and have had to cancel or postpone because they’ve had positive cases, and they have small campuses, and kids have siblings, and they just had to close the school and do remote learning for a short period of time. And hopefully, they’ll open back up in a month or so when we’re already rescheduled for the first school that we were supposed to see. So I anticipate this coming school year being OK, let’s go ahead and book. But I also am going to be flexible and know that schools may have to either cancel or postpone. So we thought we were reaching a better place and then boom, you just never know what’s coming down the line in life. And you just have to be ready for whatever might be coming down the line and be flexible and open to whatever is coming and open to making that pivot and open to meeting those new needs. So that’s what the vision team is doing right now.

DC: As far as the rest of the organization goes, we’ve expanded in hiring nurses to be able to help with testing and vaccinations. And our homeless outreach program, that’s still going as it has with us offering showers and toiletries and services. It might be that one time or another during the pandemic, fewer have come out. But then again, more were coming out when it looks like we were going in a more positive direction. So for Project Vision Hawaii, I’m very proud that we’ve been able to pivot the way we’ve pivoted and that we’re still open to pivoting and doing what it is we need to do to meet the changing needs of the community.

PH: Thank you Dr. Dianne for sharing all that. It’s incredible just hearing about how that was always Project Vision’s focus was meeting the immediate needs of the community, not just only focusing on vision, but constantly looking for new ways that you can serve. Just briefly I think you mentioned it in the pre-interview, but the result of your efforts to protect your staff with PPE. Can you just talk about how successful that was in terms of making sure nobody contracted covid?

DC: Yes, so like I mentioned, once we got our PPE, I think we all felt pretty confident. We started off in plastic disposable gowns, and this is July, so plastic in July, it is so hot. And you’re an internal bath, if you will, because it’s just so hot, and you’re just sweating the whole time. Hydration is extremely important at this time. Again, if we go from site to site, we don new PPE. We doff it properly. And then if it’s disposable, it goes in the garbage. If it’s not disposable, it goes to the garbage bag sealed so that it can be taken care of once it’s home. Yeah, with the respirators, the face shields, I do have a story about my face shield. I think besides the fact that is more Darth Vader-like, I’m glad that it’s hard plastic because I have been hit in the face by a kupuna who wasn’t happy with me. But this is somebody also who was suffering from dementia and really didn’t understand what was going on. But at the place that she was, it was required that she get a test. So we just do the best that we can. And we understand the demographics, the different populations that we’re working with. And, you know, it’s important that we treat everybody the same and that everybody gets the same services and everybody has a right to the same services.

PH: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you also mentioned just with all your efforts to protect everyone on staff, no one came down with or tested positive for covid, is that right?

DC: For the vision team, absolutely. Yes, I feel good about that, too. I want to knock on wood. And one thing I didn’t mention when I was talking about the pivot, when the community events shut down and we couldn’t do vision, we have a city GIA grant which means that we have to go to so many different unduplicated sites, and we have to offer services to so many keiki and so many adults and so many kupuna. And if there’s no community events, how do you do that? How do you do that if there’s no community events? So what I did was I went to all of my covid testing sites and I said, you know, we can offer more than covid testing. We can also offer vision. So we created our own community events, if you will. And that has been successful. And to my knowledge, there’s been, that we have participated in, there’s been one official community event, and that was at the end of June. And again, that was at a time when it looked like things were improving here in the state of Hawaii. I don’t think that they would do that now. But still, I’m going back to the sites that I know, the sites that I have relationships with, sites that I do covid testing at and say, “OK, let’s do some vision here.”

PH: Yeah, and going back to those vision screenings. And with the absence of it in schools for nine months, did you observe any negative impacts on keiki, and did that maybe reinforce your awareness of the need for regular vision screenings?

DC: That’s a really good question. I can’t say from our perspective that we would notice anything. I can say, though, that without our services, those students who are the ones that end up really needing them would be adversely affected. Because we all know if a child cannot see, a child cannot read, and if a child cannot read, a child cannot learn. And it doesn’t necessarily mean an elementary student. That could be a middle school student or a high school student. If you can’t see, you can’t read. If you can’t read, you can’t learn. Doesn’t matter what age you are.

PH: This pandemic is always changing, so it’s difficult to predict, but with schools reopened now, can you talk a little bit about what PVH’s role in the community will be going forward and also how the Delta Variant might be affecting those plans? Do you think maybe you’re going to need to pivot again?

DC: That could very well be. And the good thing is that we’re open to that, and we’ve done it before, and we can do it again. So for now, like the first school that we were to have that was supposed to start August 23 screening, but because they had positive cases and then siblings are in a school, so that means not just that one positive case, but a sibling in the same family is in a different classroom. So it affects more than just one classroom and one student even though the sibling may not be positive, it’s still contact tracing. It’s still exposing more and more, and small campus. And they had mandatory flow. Like, you’re only allowed to walk in one direction over here and one direction over there kind of thing. So that school really did have to shut down. Other schools, larger schools, I feel like that might be from the school’s perspective, more doable. From Project Vision Hawaii’s vision team’s perspective, we can do it. We can handle it. We can walk in. We can assess the space that we’re given. And that’s what we do because every place we go, unless we’ve been there before, it’s our first time. So we have to go to the site, we go an hour early, we assess the site, we assess the space that we’re given and figure out what’s going to go where. Where are we going to do the autorefraction? Where are we going to do the the eye charts? Where are we going to do checkin? Where’s vision van going to park if it’s a community event? If it’s a school event, it’s the same thing without the vision van. And so once we assess how everything is going to be set up, that pretty much determines your workflow and the flow of the students from one station to the next station. So again, it’s important to make sure that there’s enough distance between the stations, that there’s enough space at a particular station to actually do the screening that’s going on there, making sure that at check in and check out that people are still maintaining distance, having chairs set up. So a lot of the success is really getting there early, assessing the space that you have, coming up with a good layout plan and then setting it up and executing it.

PH: Yeah, thank you. And you kind of addressed it there towards the end, but through this interview, you’ve talked a lot about how successful Project Vision has been in pivoting in these multiple ways in terms of the outcomes of your efforts. But are there any lessons maybe that other community organizations could take from Project Vision Hawaii, in terms of how you were able to pivot and adapt to covid-19 so successfully?

DC: I think a lot of it is daring to do. When I first moved to the Netherlands, I just told people about learning the language. You just have to dare to speak it. You just have to be brave enough to do it. So I think with a pivot you have to be brave enough to do it, open to creating new partnerships, and having the savvy or the know how or the skill of being a community connector or relationship builder to get out there and make new connections and make new relationships, create new partnerships, because that’s how we’re going to get through it is working together. Collaborating with other members of the community is a necessary means to fighting the pandemic. And we all have to be open to being able to work with one another and work well with one another. And I think just daring to do, just daring to do and put yourself out there and not being afraid to call on somebody that you don’t know and say, “hey, how about… I’ve had this idea that we can work together to fight this pandemic. Let’s let’s chat.” Yeah, that’s what I did.

PH: Yeah, that’s a great philosophy, daring to do. Well, without overlooking the many hardships, and you talked about a lot of them today that covid-19 has brought on, were there any positive outcomes or positive reactions maybe that you observed in the community as a result of the pandemic being on the front lines?

DC: Yes, so with vision in schools or the community, you occasionally get a reaction and that reaction just fills your heart and fills your soul. So at a community event, there was this elderly gentleman who came with his caseworker, and he just couldn’t see anything. And he had to be put on a plane to fly across the country to go live with family. And he couldn’t see to read signs, even navigate any stairs. So he was in a desperate situation. And he came in and his face… He had flat affect, just very sober looking and just giving him a pair of reading glasses, put this huge smile on his face. And that just warmed your heart. They weren’t prescription glasses that you would get at LensCrafters or your doctor’s office, but they were a pair of over the counter reading glasses that he got for free. And it was enough of a boost for him that he could see. And it put a big smile on his face.

PH: Wow.

DC: That was very rewarding.

PH: Yeah, I can imagine.

DC: Then we had some eyeglasses dispensing events in the spring and our dispensing events are with our partner Vision to Learn. And maybe four or five times a year outside of a pandemic we’ll choose a school, and at that school, every child who got a pair of eyeglasses gets their eyeglasses at this one hour event during the school day. And the students are called up one by one. And there’s the school principal, counselors, whoever has been involved from the school is there. There might be a mayor there. The Lieutenant Governor, Dr. Josh Green might be there, funders are there, VIPs might be there. Some of our elected officials might be there. And each person gives a pair of eyeglasses to a student. And on Kaui this past spring, the last student in this elementary school to get his glasses, he put them on and he said, “wow!” You know right then and there that this has made a difference in this kid’s life. And then shortly after that, we had an eye glasses dispensing on Maui, and there with the mayor, this kid puts on his glasses and he starts jumping up and down and doing this with the mayor. You don’t see that every time. But occasionally a child will respond, a student will respond. And I just can’t express the feeling. It just warms your heart, and you know that something good has happened, and that you’ve made a difference in that person’s life.

PH: Yeah, that is beautiful, and I think that’s probably a wonderful note to end on for this interview. But just in closing, is there anything else that you want to add or any final thoughts you’d like to share?

DC: Service is important to me, and it always has been,.I brought up our daughters with the notion of giving back, helping another, doing something for the community. And for many, many years, I was a Girl Scout leader. So I took that role very seriously. And it was important to me and all those girls. I ended with 10 solid and those 10 went through bronze, silver and gold awards. They got all of the awards. But more importantly than earning these awards was that they were introduced to so many different organizations and agencies because we would reach out, and we would volunteer with them. Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. We volunteered from about 2009 to 2017, year after year after year. And other organizations, Hospice Hawaii, Islands Hospice, so many organizations I can’t even think anymore. But that was one way that all those girls and young ladies and young women now were able to not only network in the community and see how that works, but making these connections and understanding there is a need out there. There is a need. Nonprofits especially can’t always afford to pay for the help that they need. And to have somebody step up and offer that help for free is tremendous. It’s absolutely tremendous. And they’re doing the work in the community that needs to be done. Many places are doing work in the community that needs to be done, not just nonprofits, and they just can’t afford that help that’s needed. So to step up and be that person that says, “I’m going to be here and I’m going to help, just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it. Train me to do what it is I need to do and I’ll train” is so important. And I think it’s important to teach that and to model that for future generations and those 10 girls and their parents, we’re still family. They have graduated. Some of them have graduated with masters, and we’re still family. We call upon one another if each of one of us has a need. So not only are you teaching that generation to network and to build relationships and the importance of giving back, you’re also teaching them the importance of caring for each other. And that’s been important in my life, and that’s my family.

PH: Well, thank you, Dr. Dianne, just for your devotion to service and for instilling that in others and then also just for using your skillsets to serve the community. And thank you for taking the time to do this interview this morning. I really appreciate it.

DC: Well, thank you, Pono. I appreciate you asking me. And this is Mele. This is my Mele.

PH: Hi Mele, nice to meet you. Alright. Well, that will conclude our interview. I’ll go ahead and stop the recording.