NACHC mourns the loss of a beloved friend and colleague. In the quiet of Christmas Eve, Melvin Kauila Clark passed away in Hawaii following a lengthy illness.
Kauila Clark dedicated much of his life to the Health Center Movement. His ties and affiliation with both Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center and NACHC spanned decades of leadership and contribution. Throughout the years, he became one of the nation’s most ardent and passionate advocates for a community-based health system to expand healthcare access and to ensure patient-focused, culturally competent care in America’s diverse communities. He was highly respected by lawmakers, including Hawaii’s congressional delegation and the late Senator Daniel Inouye, former Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Kauila Clark was the first native Hawaiian to serve as Board Chair of NACHC (2011-2013). Tom Van Coverden, NACHC CEO and President recalls: “Kauila was the right leader at the right time. This was a crucial period when health centers were embarked on an unprecedented and historic expansion. Bringing forward his long-time experience as a consumer board member at Waianae Coast, he reminded us to hold true to our mission in a changing health world. He said, ‘Always, we must keep foremost in mind who we serve – why we serve – and the defining component of our model of care – our patient majority governing boards.’”
This was a man of many skills and qualities. In addition to being a certified traditional native Hawaiian health practitioner, Kauila Clark was an artist, a master potter, educator and lecturer. His artwork, internationally acclaimed, has been exhibited in 53 countries and museums such as the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. He held degrees in art and sculpture from Graceland University and the University of Puget Sound.
The NACHC family will remember our dear friend who believed in the work we do and who was unshakeable in his firm belief in the future of health centers. He also believed in NACHC. In his inaugural address as NACHC Board Chair he stated: “I like to think of NACHC as a beautiful mosaic of people of all colors and backgrounds – dreams and voices. That mosaic, the blend of people and dreams is expressed in the mission we share to provide health care to the medically underserved and to lead our nation to a more equitable health care for all.”
The NACHC family joins in expressing deepest sympathies to family and friends – and the staff and patients of Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.