Sunday, March 16, 2003

The Rev. Frank Chong, now a public policy specialist with AlohaCare, has been has been active with the Honolulu health and human services community since the early 1980s.

Social workers honor
Rev. Frank Chong

The former head of the Waikiki
Health Center is praised as a
tireless advocate for the poor

By Pat Gee

A passion for justice.

That's the most important value a social worker needs, says Rev. Frank Chong, the former executive director of the Waikiki Health Center who was named 2003 Social Worker of the Year by the Hawaii chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

"Without passion there is burnout, there is despair, and there is no warmth," he said in his speech in accepting the award Friday. "One cannot last in our profession if there is no desire to make this world a better place to live in, to make life a little better for someone else. Without a passion for justice, there is no desire to right wrongs and there is no willingness to take a chance."

March is National Professional Social Work Month.

"We are like that bridge over troubled water," said Chong, now a public policy specialist with AlohaCare, a health plan under MedQuest. "We help to build, strengthen and repair relationships. People want us to stand alongside them in their struggles. They don't want to be made better. They want to be empowered so they can make their own choices. ... Our job is to help hold the fabric of the community together."

Chong, an ordained minister, sees himself as "an advocate for the poor and underserved." His current job allows him to work toward changing the laws that affect medical care for the needy, so he spends a lot of time at the Legislature and City Hall.

He said he is trying to get a universal health care system created so "everybody can be insured."

"A lot of people don't have health insurance, and that's one of the great tragedies," Chong said.

In nominating Chong for the honor, Joanne L. Lundstrom, chief executive officer of Mental Health Kokua, said, "Frank has been involved in virtually every effort to organize the health and human services community" since the early 1980s, and has been a "tireless advocate for social justice throughout his 35-year career."

He continues to be "a spokesperson on behalf some of the most vulnerable in our community -- the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the disenfranchised," she said.

Chong has also been involved with a number of volunteer leadership roles with the American Cancer Society, and other health and civil liberties organizations, Lundstrom added.

He is an adjunct faculty member at both the University of Hawaii Schools of Social Work and Public Health.

E-mail to City Desk


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