From left, Irene Carpenter and Dr. Sylvia Sonnenschein are the newest additions to the Hamakua Health Center and the Kohala Family Health Center. COURTESY PHOTO FOR NHN
Dr. Sylvia Sonnenschein was appointed as the new medical director and Irene Carpenter as the new chief executive officer of the Hamakua Health Center and the Kohala Family Health Center.
Carpenter has been working to develop health and human services in Hawaii for more than 25 years. During the past 11 years, she been a founder and board member for the Ko o lau loa Community Health and Wellness Center on Oahu. While serving there, she traveled and met often with national and local leaders who are helping to shape health care reform. She has worked with all of the community health centers, State of Hawaii Planning and Development Agency, the Department of Health, Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, AlohaCare, Hawaii Primary Care Association, The Association of Providers of Rural Health Care Services and the Hawaii State Substance Abuse Coalition.
She was recently nominated to represent HHC on the AlohaCare board of directors and was also appointed by the governor to serve on an advisory committee for the State Health Planning and Development Agency. She will make her home in Honokaa.
Sonnenschein, well known to the Kohala community, has accepted the position of HHC medical director with a strong commitment to keep both of the Community Health Centers open and thriving. She was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and moved to the United States at an early age.
She graduated from University of Washington with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She went on to medical school, now known as Western University in Pomona, Calif., and graduated in 1983 under an Army Health Professional Scholarship Program. After completing an army tour that took her to Southeast Asia, she went on to complete an internal medicine residency at the University of Hawaii in 1992, then moved to Kauai where she encountered Hurricane Iniki, and continued to provide health care where it was most needed.
In 1996, Dr. Sonnenschein moved to Hawaii Island and began practicing at the Kohala Family Health Center
Hamakua Health Center, Inc. is a nonprofit federally qualified health center located on the Island of Hawaii. It operates two clinic sites (11 providers) and a mobile dental van (one provider) serving the districts of Hamakua, North Hilo, North Kohala and South Kohala.