WASHINGTON – Last week, our world lost two Native Hawaiian leaders who have been dear partners of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Senator Daniel K. Akaka and Victor “Uncle” Kaiwi Pang.

Senator Akaka represented Hawaii in Congress for 36 years. In that time, he was a champion for Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Asian American issues—including on immigration and health equity policies and laws. APIAHF had the honor of working with Sen. Akaka when he introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 (HEAA), completely re-written because previous health disparities provisions had been adopted into the Affordable Care Act. HEAA was the next opportunity to go further in advancing health equity for the nation and Sen. Akaka stood as the primary Senate sponsor for the bill.

Uncle Kaiwi was president of the Pacific Islander Health Project (PIHP) in Orange County, California. He also served as the vice chair of the APIAHF board of directors. Uncle Kaiwi was a strong advocate for health equity, himself a survivor of multiple bouts with cancer. Through PIHP, services including health education and screening are provided to the diverse Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities throughout California and even into Arizona. Uncle Kaiwi is survived by his wife Jane “Aunty” Ka’ala Pang. Together, they were dedicated members of the Mainland Council of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.

It is with a heavy heart but with deep gratitude that we remember and honor these two lions of our communities.