Q&A: Martha Smith

The CEO of Kapiolani Medical Center celebrates the hospital’s centennial—and charts a course for the future.

Martha Smith


Martha Smith has been the CEO of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children (KMCWC) for four years. This year Smith is also celebrating the 100th birthday of the medical center, originally established as the Kauikeolani Children’s Hospital and funded solely by Albert and Emma Kauikeolani Wilcox (see photos below) and other community members.

Albert and Emma Kauikeolani Wilcox

Photos: Courtesy Hawaii State Archives


 Q. What does the hospital have in store for the next 100 years?

A. We’re kicking off a capital campaign for the expansion of the facility; we really haven’t expanded our walls since 1978. We purchased a lot next door to us, the former Bingham Arms Apartments. Fifteen to 20 years out, we hope to construct a new parking lot, but our primary focus is on expanding our neonatal intensive-care and our pediatric intensive-care units to provide family-centered care and services. Our interim plan includes an expansion and intense interior renovation of the hospital, including our shared services center, by adding a floor and expanding it wider, which is where intensive-care units now reside.

This all requires phases; we can’t just tear this place down. Patient floors at the hospital will move over [to the building on the new property] and this building will house more services and physicians’ offices and outpatient clinics.

Photo: Courtesy of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children

Q. More than 6,200 babies are born at KMCWC each year, nearly half of all babies born on Oahu. What attracts so many pregnant women?

A. We’re a teaching hospital, so that raises the bar for care and services. We keep up with the latest in care because we’re training the future doctors of our community. But also we’re a high-risk perinatal facility; we have maternal fetal medicine specialists on staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week.Most pregnancies go well and are just fine, but there are times when things don’t go well. We’re also the only facility that has the highest level of care for our neonatal intensive-care unit. Children’s hospitals usually aren’t found in places with the population size of Hawaii. They’re usually found in places with 3 million to 5 million people. That makes the hospital even more of a precious resource to this community. Many people don’t realize that we’re not-for-profit and we do a tremendous amount of community service work.

Photo: Courtesy of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children

Q. What are some other important services the medical center provides?

A. Our neonatal and pediatric transport team is made up of highly specialized nurses and respiratory therapists, and they do between 450 and 500 transports a year. The critical- care team picks up children from Oahu as well as our Neighbor Islands, stabilizes their condition and either brings them back to the hospital or accompanies them to the Mainland. Also, we have the only pediatric emergency room in the state. Children are not little adults and they require specialized care and people who are trained in that care.

Q. Does your job ever become emotional?

A. It is all the time. We get close to our families; it’s hard, but it is so rewarding. When you go to our newborn intensive-care reunion and you see these kids that were born as a little tiny 1.5-pound babies running up to you, or you see the kids that used to be so sick, it makes it all worth it. We get to make a difference here every single day. I tell people I have the best job … we have miracles here every single day.