Anahola’s Kaleiohi chosen as Navy Physician Assistant of the Year

  • U.S. Navy / Contributed

    Lt. Cmdr. Joe Kaleiohi, deputy senior medical officer at Naval Special Warfare Group, poses for a photo inside an emergency room. Kaleiohi was selected as the 2021 Navy Medicine’s Physician Assistant of the Year for his contributions at NSWG-1 in Coronado, Calif.

ANAHOLA — Two weeks ago, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joe Kaleiohi was back on Kaua‘i watching the sunset, feeling that trade wind breeze.

While he’s based in Coronado, California, Kaleiohi still calls Anahola home.

“It can be a tough place to grow up,” Kaleiohi said. “I’m proud to be an Anahola boy. I think it’s a lot of having grown up there that being a SEAL in the Navy kind of came naturally. We’re water people, we’re warriors.”

Earlier this year, Kaleiohi was named the 2021 Navy Medicine’s Physician Assistant of the Year for his contributions as the deputy senior medical officer at Naval Special Warfare Group (NSWG) 1, which serves, trains, deploys and sustains forces throughout the world.

“It’s an honor, really, because I have a ton of peers that I easily could have picked him or her,” he said earlier this week. “I like taking care of my people and to be honored in this way is humbling, and sort of embarrassing, but it’s definitely an honor.”

On any given day, Kaleiohi can see around 30 patients at the clinic, performing primary care, case management, physical therapy and mental health.

“It’s a lot of managing the requirements of the command while also managing long-term things to get people ready for deployment,” he said.

His specialty is emergency medicine and trauma medicine.

“The pressure is on to perform,” he said. “This guy’s life really hangs in the balance of the decisions you make.”

Kaleiohi, a graduate of Kamehameha School and who also attended St. Catherine’s and Kapa‘a Middle, enlisted 36 years ago, serving 20 of which as a SEAL medic.

Kaleiohi grew up looking up to his uncles in the Navy and Army and his father who was in the Hawai‘i National Guard.

“My grandfather worked at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese bombing, and as a result, a lot of my uncles joined the service, mostly Navy or Army,” he said. “That was kind of ingrained in me.”

Kaleiohi met his wife Deana, a Gulf War veteran, during his first appointment in the Philippines in 1988, he said. Together, they have five kids, the youngest graduating from San Diego State this year.

Kaleiohi was previously serving as a chief special warfare operator deployed in Iraq when he was selected to become a physician assistant and officer in 2007.

In the last year, Kaleiohi had supervised the medical operational, training and readiness directorate at NSWG-1 which trained and qualified for 213 SEAL medics, physician assistants, independent duty corpsman and field medical technicians, according to a release.

Kaleiohi also serves as a surgical resuscitation team leader in the Joint Medical Augmentation Unit within Joint Special Operations Command.


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