HAWAI‘I’S LT. GOVERNOR TACKLES TOUGH ISSUES
AS THE COUNTRY’S ONLY PHYSICIAN-LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR (HE STILL SWINGS ER SHIFTS ONCE A MONTH), DR. JOSH GREEN HAS POSITIONED HIMSELF TO BE QUITE THE TRAILBLAZER IN HAWAI‘I’S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE.
“It’s unlike any job you could ever imagine,” he says of his current role. “It truly is what you make of it … Each day we try to help change the trajectory of someone’s life in a positive way.”
And there are a handful of things that he’s honing in on: homelessness, mental health, the state’s health care profession shortage and disaster preparedness. Though seemingly unrelated, Green argues that it’s just not the case.
“I found that there’s an ecosystem of crises in Hawai‘i,” Green explains.
The LG position gives Green the ability to be accessible to people and to have the firsthand knowledge and experiences of what they’re going through.
To that end, he and his team just returned from a statewide info-gather- ing tour, where they traveled to every island to see exactly what homelessness looks like in our various communities.
“[In] the executive branch, I can do my best to assess what people need the most, what they’re struggling with the most,” he says. “That’s the doctor in me.”
Green’s introduction to medicine came later in life—never did he think he’d go into politics or the sciences—at the age of 19. It was then that Green took a trip to India and saw firsthand the poverty that others around the world face.
“I felt like if I’m going to be a person that has the privilege to travel and see things, I’d like to be able to do some- thing practical.”
Thus sparked his desire to return to school at Swarthmore College and apply for medical school. Later, severe health needs he saw in Swaziland, South Africa helped him realize he wanted to be in the trenches.
“I picked family medicine,” he says of his practice.
He came to Ka‘u on Hawai‘i Island via the National Health Service Corps, where he cared for thousands of patients.
Green’s desire to help others continued to grow, which led to his foray into politics. He served in the state House for four years and the Senate for another 10.
The rigors of being a full-time legislator, while working ER shifts every weekend were a lot for Green, though he recognizes that the circumstances for those 14 years gave him a bird’s-eye-view into what Hawai‘i communities were struggling with.
“I was frustrated because I saw a lot of people suffering,” Green recalls. “I knew I wanted to be able to give back a lot more intensely, and there’s a certain intensity to the lieutenant governor job, too.”
When he’s not pulling a shift in the ER or working on his trifecta of policies during LG office hours, Green is usually at home riding bikes or playing cards with his kids (Maia, 12, and Sam, 8),or running on the treadmill or cooking with wife Jamie. On their downtime, the family also enjoys some friendly competition while playing Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii.
“I’m happy to lose that one with them,” Green says with a laugh.
His most recent passion, though? “I’m teaching Sam how to play Dungeons & Dragons,” he adds.