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Health Center Begins CEO Search

The Molokai Community Health Center (MCHC) is in search of new leadership.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Desiree Puhi stepped down last Friday after seven years at MCHC, leaving for “a mellower part-time job” and to take care of her father.

“I am happy to pass the baton and let the younger generation build the future,” said Puhi. “I believe all nonprofit CEOs should leave after five to ten years to infuse new ideas and energy into the company.”

In the meantime, MCHC’s Board of Directors has chosen Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Andrea Trenner to fill in as interim CEO of the organization, which opened in 2003 and offers multiple healthcare services, including medical, dental and behavioral health.

MCHC Board President Matt Yamashita said the board is working with potential search agencies to find qualified candidates and will list the CEO position before the end of March. They also need to hire a chiropractic assistant to assist them with the needs of people suffering from chronic pain.

“We would like to see a new CEO selected and in place by June 1, but we will not be held to this timeline,” he said. “… We have a very capable interim CEO in Andrea Trenner, so we don’t want to rush any decisions.”

During Puhi’s time as CEO, MCHC expanded from a small rental building to its current 5.9-acre location at the old Pau Hana Inn, purchased in 2009.

“I think my biggest gift back to the community is this property because it was owned by a private entity and now it’s owned by the community,” said Puhi.

Before she came to MCHC, Puhi served as Director of Outpatient Services at Molokai General Hospital. Puhi, who’s lived on Molokai for more than 20 years, now plans to work part-time as a nurse at Liberty Dialysis while opening her own business, Inspiration Focused, to help nonprofits learn how to pursue funding.

Trenner is an Oregon native who came to Molokai two and a half years ago. She was formerly a CFO at a community health center in Washington and deputy director at a public health department in Oregon.

“I fell in love with public servant work, and once you get a taste of it, you can’t go back,” said Trenner. “… The beauty of community health is you don’t necessarily have to be a healthcare worker to make a difference.”

Yamashita said Puhi left MCHC with a strong staff, smooth operations and good financial position.

“Desiree … led us through some tough transitions, and kept the vision alive,” said Yamashita. “She has always had the best interest of the community at the forefront of her efforts.”


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