Office of the Director
Director of Health
Elizabeth A Char, MD took over leadership of the Hawai’i Department of Health on September 16, 2020 after being appointed by Gov. David Ige. Dr. Char is an emergency physician and graduate of the University of Hawai’i, John A. Burns School of Medicine. Her vast clinical and administrative experience includes residency training in California, emergency medicine practice at the Queen’s Medical Center, and service as State of Hawai‘i EMS District Medical Director for O‘ahu.
Dr. Char has a special interest in medical preparation and training for homeland security and mass gatherings events. Much of her work focuses on EMS and first responder systems of care, providing medical oversight for many of these agencies.
Cathy Ross, MPH, MBA was appointed as first deputy at the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health by Gov. David Ige in December 2018. Prior to her appointment, Ross was deputy director for administration in the Department of Public Safety during Gov. Ige’s first term. She previously held several positions at the Department of Health before moving to Public Safety in 2012. As the first deputy, Ross heads the DOH administrative offices which oversee Administrative Services, Human Resources, District Health Offices in Hawai‘i, Maui, and Kaua‘i counties, Health Information Systems, Affirmative Action and the Planning, Policy, and Program Development. In addition, the first deputy oversees the Office of Health Status Monitoring which registers and issues all birth, death, and marriage certificates in the state.
Ross earned three degrees at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa – a B.A. in psychology, M.P.H. in public health, and an M.B.A. from the Shidler College of Business Executive MBA program.
Deputy Director of Health Resources
Danette Wong Tomiyasu, MBA, was re-appointed to serve as Deputy Director of Health Resources at the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health. She has served in this position since 2015. The Health Resources Administration (HRA) oversees the divisions of Family Health Services, Disease Outbreak Control, Communicable Disease and Public Health Nursing, and Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. In addition, HRA includes the Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention System Branch and the Office of Health Care Assurance. Tomiyasu previously served as Chief of the Family Health Services Division overseeing statewide public health surveillance, systems, programs, and policy development for Maternal and Child Health; Children with Special Health Care Needs; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; Primary Care and Rural Health; and Oral Health. Tomiyasu also served as Chief of the Chronic Disease Management and Control Branch from October 2001 – August 2011.
Before returning to Hawaii, she served with the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health for 10 years overseeing critical school health and nursing services for the Seattle Public Schools.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Tomiyasu earned a BA from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix in Hawaii.
Deputy Director of Environmental Health
Keith Kawaoka, D.Env was re-appointed to serve as deputy director of environmental health at the Department of Health. Dr. Kawaoka has served in this position since 2015. Most recently, he was the Program Manager of the department’s Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office for more than 15 years. He has held various senior level positions in both national and local environmental consulting firms. At these firms, Dr. Kawaoka has worked as a senior project manager, program manager, and office director. He has been involved in toxic and hazardous waste management over the last 25 years and brings more than 35 years of experience in environmental protection from the public and private sectors. As deputy director of environmental health, Kawaoka oversees all environmental regulatory issues and protection for the state.
Kawaoka holds a master’s degree in public and environmental health and a doctorate in environmental science and engineering both from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Deputy Director of Behavioral Health
Edward Mersereau, LCSW, CSAC was appointed as Deputy Director of Behavioral Health at the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health by Gov. David Ige in December 2018. Mersereau previously served as Chief of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division from 2015-2019 and was the Executive Director and owner of Action with Aloha LLC from 2007-2015. The Deputy Director of Behavioral Health assist the Director of Health in the management and administration of behavioral health programs and services and provides leadership as the state mental health and substance abuse authority. The deputy oversees four divisions: Adult Mental Health, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and Developmental Disabilities.
Mersereau is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Hawai‘i State Certified Substance Abuse Counselor with more than 25 years of experience in counseling and clinical social work practice. He is a graduate of the University of Hawai‘i School of Social Work where he also received his Master of Social Work.