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GOVERNOR’S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE: Pankaj Bhanot to lead Department of Human Services following departure of Rachael Wong

Posted on Aug 11, 2016 in Latest Department News, Newsroom, Office of the Governor Press Releases

Bridget Holthus to become DHS deputy director; two others added to leadership team

HONOLULU – Gov. David Ige announced today that Rachael Wong, director of the Department of Human Services (DHS), will leave her post at the end of the month. Current Deputy Director Pankaj Bhanot will serve as the next DHS director beginning September 1. Mr. Bhanot’s appointment is subject to Senate approval.

Bridget Holthus is being appointed as DHS deputy director effective September 1. Her appointment is not subject to Senate confirmation.

Wong will be taking some time off before pursuing opportunities in the private sector where she can continue to be an advocate for DHS programs that contribute to the state’s public health, education, employment, and housing goals.

“I asked Rachael to be a change agent for collaboration, transparency, and action, and she has done just that. Rachael was the right person to lead DHS, and there will be no disruption to the momentum built as the department focuses on implementation of the programs she envisioned. I appreciate her public service,” said Gov. Ige.

Pankaj Bhanot_HeadshotPankaj Bhanot (pronounced PAHN-kej) brings 17 years of committed service in the department and has served as the department’s deputy twice — under Gov. Ige and from Dec. 2010 to Jan. 2012. He has experience in implementing large information technology and human services projects. Bhanot previously led a business transformation initiative that won national recognition. He is an attorney by training who has dedicated his professional life to human rights and human services.

Bridget Holthus (pronounced HOLE-thus) most recently served as research program liaison at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center. She previously served as the deputy director of the Office of Community Services at the City & County of Honolulu, special assistant to the Attorney General, and director of philanthropic services at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. Bridget is an attorney with a certificate in public health.

“Pankaj Bhanot has been an integral part of the DHS leadership team and is positioned to conduct a seamless transition. Pankaj and Bridget will continue to work closely with director of health, Ginny Pressler, to move forward with the state’s multigenerational approach to improving health outcomes, called ‘Ohana Nui. They will also implement the DHS integrated information system for the entire state, a move that will accelerate the transformation of the way the department does business,” said Gov. Ige.

The following people will also join the leadership team in the DHS director’s office:

Kimberly Miyazawa Frank will serve as the community/project development director, leading the implementation of ‘Ohana Nui and working directly with community stakeholders. Frank has provided coaching and mentorship to organizations in Hawai‘i, having previously served as executive director of the YWCA-O‘ahu. She also led community engagement and human services programs as senior vice president for community development at Pulama Lana‘i.

Mark Forman joins DHS as the policy director and will serve a key role in synthesizing DHS policies and programs under ‘Ohana Nui. Forman has worked in all three branches of state government, including the state Office of Community Services. He actively promoted the improvement of health and social welfare outcomes as the administrator of the HMSA Foundation.

Photos of Bhanot and Holthus are attached.


Media Contacts:

Jodi Leong

Deputy Communications Director/Press Secretary

Office of the Governor

Office: 808-586-0043

Mobile: 808-798-3929

[email protected]


Cindy McMillan

Communications Director

Office of the Governor

Office: 808-586-0012

Mobile: 808-265-7974

[email protected]