Claire L. Asam speaks in calm, measured tones, and you sense her deep commitment
to her work. After a 25-year career as an educator and administrator at Kamehameha
Schools, Asam – who holds a doctorate in education from the University of
Hawai‘i at Manoa – served for eight years as the president and executive
director of the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center. In 2007, she
was named a Queen Lili‘uokalani trustee.
Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center is a 101-year-old social service
agency established to improve the welfare of orphaned and destitute Native Hawaiian
children. The center’s 155 staff members work statewide to help children and
families in trying circumstances, so Asam was pleased when she and her leadership
team were able to launch an employee wellness program in 2004.
The center offered employees a modest cost share for health and wellness purchases,
such as weight management program participation fees and exercise equipment like
athletic shoes. The leadership team also brought in guest speakers to talk about
physical activity and healthful eating, and gave staff time off to work out, read,
meditate, or simply re-charge their mental batteries. “The employees viewed
the wellness program as a commitment to and support of their health,” Asam
The program also had a positive ripple effect on staff members’ interaction
with client families. “Rather than providing cake for dessert, we served fresh
fruit,” says Asam. “It’s these little steps that lead to bigger
changes.” She recalls receiving a letter from a Neighbor Island physician
who reported that one of the center’s employees who had participated in the
wellness program had lost weight, no longer needed diabetes medication, and improved
her overall health. “That’s the kind of results we had hoped to achieve.
A healthy employee builds a stronger organization,” Asam says with a smile.
Asam currently serves on the boards of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, the
Asian/Pacific Islander Youth Violence Prevention Center, ‘Imi Hale, and the
Ho‘okako‘o Corporation. “It is our responsibility to serve and
be models,” she says. “As members of the community, we lend our talents
and time to improve our communities.”
Asam joined HMSA’s board of directors last year. She brings with her a multifaceted
perspective, both as a member – she is a breast cancer survivor – and
an employer. Her husband, Dr. J. Kuhio Asam, is a physician and executive director
of Lunalilo Home and Trust and brings a provider’s perspective. Asam serves
on the HMSA appeals committee. “It was a lot of homework, but I learned that
HMSA really does care,” she says. “From the very first meeting, it was
clear that the committee wanted to understand the member’s perspective and
Exercise has always been part of Asam’s life. She has fond memories of childhood
swimming lessons at the YWCA and swimming for exercise while attending college on
the Continent. She and her husband have participated in North Shore swimming events,
in addition to the annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim and a Tinman Triathlon. For almost
two years, the couple has exercised with friends at 6 a.m., six days a week, using
a popular high-intensity workout DVD. “It’s a great workout, and we
are as a result, much healthier,” she says.
Over the past year, Asam’s two adult sons have returned to Hawai‘i after
years on the Continent. So she has been able to enjoy more family time recently,
especially with the arrival of her first grandchild. She enjoyed Mother’s
Day with both sons for the first time since they were in high school 16 years ago.
“It’s nice to have them home,” she says.