In 2009, while finishing his graduate degree in Physical Therapy (PT) at the University of Washington, Shaw Okawara’s clinical supervisor told him about a job opening for a Physical Therapist at Kuakini. Within two months after graduating, Shaw joined Kuakini’s Rehabilitation Services Department.
“This is the perfect place to start working right after graduation. I’m glad to be here,” Shaw said. “They give you a mentor and teach you what you need to know. They educate you. I really like the nurturing aspect of Kuakini.” Shaw credits his department colleagues, especially Senior Physical Therapist Kelly Bennet, for his recognition as Employee of the Month.
One of his nominators described Shaw as positive, patient, dedicated, reliable, excellent, and someone who goes beyond the call of duty.
“He sees the potential in patients…and has the ability to encourage and motivate with his words,” the nominator said. “He is consistently flexible in meeting the demands of the Department, including covering both acute and geriatric services, weekend staffing, and taking the lead within the PT group.”
Shaw is one of the 20 Health Care Team members in the department, which includes other physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. Their primary goal is to facilitate rehabilitative treatment and to discharge patients from Kuakini with the best range of motion possible.
Shaw recalls working with a patient who had difficulty moving, sitting, standing and breathing. After four months of therapy, the patient could walk on his own. He occasionally visits the staff to show his gratitude.
“I was impressed by his improvement,” Shaw said, brimming with pride for the patient’s progress and perseverance.
Shaw has come full circle in his quest to help others with muscular weakness. He is inspired by his father who, despite being physically disabled, managed to show him that life is a blessing.
“He couldn’t do regular things with me like play ball, but he was always happy, ” Shaw said. “I got into the profession because I want people to live a full life and to have joy despite the handicap they have. It was a blessing that God put me in Kuakini out of all the hospitals here in Hawaii.”