Alexander Friedenburg Ka‘ōhiai Ka‘ōnohi, born on this day in 1905, combined the mana of his kūpuna with modern science of his time. A naturopathic physician, pharmacist, botanist and healer, Dr. Ka‘ōnohi was beloved by family and patients alike. He was also a mentor and a teacher, who personally sponsored other Hawaiians in their healing pursuits whether nursing, medicine or lā‘au lapa‘au.
So, it seems only fitting that we honor Dr. Ka‘ōnohi on his lā hānau by shining some light on a modern day Hawaiian naturopath.
Dr. Landon Kalaua‘e ‘Ōpūnui has recently been appointed medical director at Nā Pu‘uwai, the Native Hawaiian Health Care System that serves the islands of Lāna‘i and Molokai, including Kalaupapa. He may be the only kanaka maoli naturopath today.
Dr. ‘Ōpūnui is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools, Loyola Marymount, and Bastyr University in Seattle where he studied naturopathic medicine. Like Dr. Ka‘ōnohi, whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers were herbal medicine practitioners, Dr. ‘Ōpūnui was inspired by his kupuna to be a healer.
When the Ka‘ōnohi Clinic opened on the corner of Castle and Kapāhulu streets in Honolulu in 1940, Dr. Ka‘ōnohi specialized in Hawaiian herb treatments, drugless medicine and bloodless surgery. He was a pioneer in integrating western and traditional practices into his daily work.
Dr. ‘Ōpūnui is also a pioneer: the first naturopathic doctor to serve as medical director for any Native Hawaiian Health Care System, and the first naturopath to become fully credentialed as a primary care physician in HMSA’s network of PCPs. His practice serves a bridge between western and traditional medicine. He is licensed to assess, diagnose and treat disease like his medical counterparts, then is likely to offer more natural therapies to manage each patient’s illness while seeking out the root cause.
Among Dr. ‘Ōpūnui’s visions for Nā Pu‘uwai are to create and implement innovative programs that address the health needs of the community, and promote collaboration within the Native Hawaiian Health Care System and among health care providers, clinics and hospitals that serve Molokai and Lāna‘i.
Congratulations, Dr. ‘Ōpūnui, on your appointment! As you honor your own kūpuna, we see you are also honoring the genealogy of Hawaiians in naturopathic medicine.
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