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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2023

Strength through partnership: Doctor achieves goal to be part of Guam Innovative Readiness Training

By Maj. Chelsea Kersten 9th Mission Support Command

Dr. Suzanne Kaneshiro, former Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) for the Division of Public Health at the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS), finally sees the fruits of her labor pay off three years later with Guam Innovative Readiness Training (IRT), at Calvo Field House at the University of Guam, Aug 2-10, 2023.

Kaneshiro was the CPHO from 2010-2020. In 2018, Kaneshiro applied for an IRT mission to come to Guam, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense approved her application. That mission was set to occur in 2020 but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission was postponed.

Applications for IRT missions come from all over the United States, and requests vary from medical services to construction needs, to veterinarian services. The IRT team then matches the requests with military units and their capabilities. The organization requesting services help with logistics, such as providing facilities, and informs the community of upcoming services. This collaborative partnership leverages military contributions, and community resources, to maximize value and cost savings for community members.

Kaneshiro stated the need that drove her to apply was, “…every time school opens, people want physicals and vaccinations. The children must be ready and that was the need I saw," said Kaneshiro. "There's a great requirement for dental services in Guam. Dental services are very expensive, and since we lost the dental clinic at Public Health, people have nowhere to go. Unless you have Medicaid, you can't afford it. Patients are getting a lot of benefit.”

As to how she got into Public Health, she states her father was the CPHO from 1970-1975, and her mother was a community health nurse at DPHSS for 30 years before retiring in 1992. Kaneshiro, herself worked at DPHSS for 28 years before retiring in 2020.

“Public health has always been my passion. I consider it my second home...it’s my way of coming back and being with the people I love. I miss all the people I had the pleasure to work with," Kaneshiro expressed. "It’s just family. Anytime Public Health needs volunteers, I volunteer. If you work with Public Health, you are there because you want to help people.”

While no longer working for DPHSS, Kaneshiro’s passion for this mission is unwavering and inspiring to those around her, as both her and her daughter, Kimberly, are volunteering their expertise as dentists during this mission.

“I hope you come back next year... I am grateful that you all came. There is a need for people to get these resources," Kaneshiro said. "There is an oral surgeon here and even Pap smears available. I am amazed at all these providers you brought out.”

The Guam Wellness IRT runs from Aug. 2-10, 2023. It is a joint military health care mission composed of over 130 Service members from the U.S. Army Reserve, Guam Army National Guard, Guam Air Guard, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Navy.