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Matthew Sasai had a sense of purpose far before many even have an idea of where their lives will go. The native son of Guam was reared with the core principles of the indigenous Chamorro people—the culture and identity his mother was raised in. Raised by his parents to honor hard work, humility, and decency above all else, Sasai knew early on where he belonged.
“I wanted to become a Marine Corps officer,” Sasai remembers. “I made sure everything I was doing was in some form of service to others. I was focused on becoming a competitive candidate to the Naval Academy.”
Fast-forward to March of 2023 and the aviation supply and logistics expert who graduated from the US Naval Academy, earned his executive master of business administration in healthcare management, became a certified materials and resource professional with the American Hospital Association, and earned a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, has brought every lesson learned from his military experience and other successes to healthcare.
The current director of supply chain operations and logistics for Hawaii’s Queen’s Health System (QHS) has never stopped learning and evolving. He made good on a promise to his childhood self, and now he’s serving a different mission on behalf of the country—he’s serving patients and medical personnel for a population that is fighting its own uphill battle.
“The Queen’s Health System has been working on transforming around our aspirational goals,” Sasai explains. QHS works to improve the health and well-being of Native Hawaiians by addressing health inequities to reduce the gap of life expectancy by half within a decade.
A study by the University of Hawaii in 2019 concluded that Native Hawaiians have, on average, fourteen fewer years of healthy life than other Asian-Pacific Islander and white populations. Native Hawaiians also have the highest rates of chronic health conditions like coronary heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Sasai’s contribution to that mission lies in strengthening QHS’s foundation by providing sustainability through increased value in quality and efficiency in the health system’s supply chain. Sasai says it’s his goal to develop sustainable and resilient supply chain operations worthy of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV’s mission and the clinicians who serve it.
To accomplish this goal, Sasai and his team are overhauling the supply replenishment system at Queen’s Health System and implementing what will be Hawaii’s first-ever healthcare Kanban system, which is undoubtedly influenced by Sasai’s extensive Lean/Six Sigma background.
“Kanban isn’t a new approach, but it’s relatively new in healthcare,” Sasai says. “It’s changing the entire way that we look at managing supplies with our clinical units. It changes how closely we interact with the clinicians to obtain their feedback on what they need and how we utilize data to have the right kind of conversations with clinicians.”
This isn’t the first big goal Sasai has undertaken at QHS, where he’s been since 2016. A month after he arrived, Sasai was thrown headfirst into a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software implementation across the whole health system. It may not be the ideal welcome, but Sasai says it was a blessing in disguise.
“It was the first time that QHS truly became one system,” Sasai explains. “We just weren’t operating on a centralized model yet, and that was a very important moment for the organization that I got to take part in.”
Sasai is the team member an organization wants during a crucial moment. This fact was no more apparent than when he was asked to help improve the efficiency of one of QHS’s internal COVID clinics during the pandemic. Something about the output of the clinic just wasn’t working, and so Sasai and a small team got the call to revamp the process.
Through a redesign and reapproach, the internal vaccine clinic went from just sixty-five vaccines a day to over six hundred per day. The overhaul was so successful that the team was asked to bring the model to the broader community. The clinic at Honolulu’s Neal S. Blaisdell Center was one of the largest in the area, and it became a success in every right.
Charles Hodge, president and CEO of BlueBin, speaks highly of the transformations at QHS. “We’re honored Queen’s chose BlueBin to transform their supply chain. Our solutions perfectly fit their needs to reduce clinician burden, gain insights through data, and boost engagement across staff—enabling better care. We eagerly anticipate the improvements our partnership will drive.”
Through more promotions, Sasai has gotten to be part of some mergers and acquisitions work with the acquisition of a behavioral health facility. Since 2016, Sasai has often moved around through QHS because he’s been able to make an immediate impactful difference and tackle the next challenge for the health system.
Given his role, the number of promotions thus far, and the humility with which he speaks about his own leadership, Sasai is a man much older than his years in philosophy alone. To maintain a proper work/life balance, Sasai enjoys spending time with his family and occasionally trains jiu jitsu under Professor Rexie Barnum at Alliance BJJ Hawaii. Sasai has already done so much on behalf of his people, his country, and his patients. But he’s got even more left in the tank, making both Guam and Hawaii proud.