DeLeon Retiring as Senator’s Chief of Staff

By James Bradshaw, Senior Editor
September 19, 2011

DeLeon Retiring as Senators Chief of StaffThe cluster of degrees behind his name shows that Patrick H. DeLeon, Ph.D., M.P.H., J.D., is no stranger to classrooms, and now that he’s retiring as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, he expects to return to them but this time as an instructor who can draw on 38 years of experience in public service.

“I think it will probably have something to do with teaching, something academic and part-time,” DeLeon said when ask what he plans to do next. He said it’s also likely he will keep a connection to government, probably serving on some commission that deals with public health.

For now, he’s leaving the possibilities open, knowing that his background is broad enough that he could pass on his knowledge of public administration in a college setting or his practical knowledge of psychology in one of the professional schools.

That decision is months away. “I’ve got 38 years of files to sort through,” he said, adding that he will continue working in Inouye’s office at least through the current congressional session but expects to leave sometime “before the snow falls or maybe even the leaves.”

DeLeon said he and his wife, Jean, will return to Hawaii for the October “white coat ceremony” when incoming students of the University of Hawaii’s School of Pharmacy commit to pursue their profession with integrity and professionalism.

DeLeon was instrumental in establishing the school five years ago and takes pride in the fact that it both fills Hawaii’s need for more well-trained pharmacists and provides students a promising future. “The average starting salary (for a graduate) is $117,000,” DeLeon said.

That’s the kind of practical effect he has achieved in several areas of public health while working for Inouye, including helping social workers get Medicare reimbursement for outpatient services, assisting nurse practitioners in gaining prescription authority and fostering a demonstration program in pediatric emergency medical service that has improved hospital care for infants throughout the nation.

Statement from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii

Patrick DeLeon is one of the most senior staff members on Capitol Hill. He has served Hawaii and the nation since 1973. He is a person of extraordinary background. A graduate of Amherst College, he holds a MS and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Purdue University, a Juris Doctorate from Catholic University and a Masters in Public Health from the University of Hawaii.

Under his service, the importance of nurses, psychologists and other health professionals was properly recognized. He has been at the forefront of shepherding legislation related to Native Hawaiians, immigrant children, the people of the Pacific and higher education. He has been very active in helping our community college system become full fledged, four-year colleges.

For example, he played a major role in the establishment of the School of Pharmacy and the School of Nursing at the University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus. I would like to personally thank Dr. DeLeon for his decades of hard work, his service to Hawaii, and most importantly, for his friendship.

The latter effort stemmed from a family crisis when the DeLeons’ daughter, Katherine, was an infant. They rushed her to an emergency room in Connecticut for treatment of acute meningitis, but the emergency room staff said they were not equipped with instruments small enough to work on an infant and she would likely die or suffer permanent brain damage.

She miraculously recovered completely, and at age 28 Katherine Malia Malie DeLeon is eagerly awaiting results of a bar exam, having graduated from the George Washington University School of Law.

After the meningitis scare, DeLeon immediately went to work through the Senate office to see to it that infants could be properly treated in emergency rooms, and the $17 million pediatric emergency medical services demonstration project was begun.

The DeLeons’ son, Patrick Daniel Nainoa DeLeon (“Daniel” from the senator’s name), is 34, and like his father takes action when he sees a problem. He operates, Offender Aid and Restoration, a nonprofit rehabilitation program for juveniles referred by the courts. “They have a 5 percent recidivism rate,” DeLeon said, pointing out that the average recidivism rate in the District of Columbia is 80 percent.

The DeLeons gave both their children Hawaiian names in honor of their adopted state. Loosely translated, Kate’s Hawaiian name, Malia Malie, means serene. Daniel Patrick’s name, Nainoa, means seeking peaceful resolution.

DeLeon said his decision to gear back from working full time came in part from a conversation with his wife concerning their 1-year-old granddaughter. “I asked, ‘When will she be walking?’ and Jean said, ‘She started two weeks ago.’ ”

In psychological circles, DeLeon is known as “the father of RxP” for his efforts to expand prescription authority for properly trained psychologists, and he promised to make himself available to speak on that whenever it would be helpful to the cause. “The future of psychology must include integrated care, and this is a crucial piece of that,” he said.

Inouye was a chief proponent of the demonstration project that trained the first 10 psychologists in RxP for the military.

DeLeon said he will not seek any offices in the American Psychological Association, having gone “through the chairs” years ago. He is past president of three divisions, was twice elected to the Council of Representatives, served two terms on the APA board of directors and was elected on the first ballot as the 2000 president of APA.

He said he is particularly proud of three things from his presidential year: having Pete Seeger perform at his inaugural ceremony and presenting presidential citations to two fellow psychologists, Colleen Hacker, Ph.D., and John Gardner, Ph.D.

Hacker served on the coaching staff of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team from 1995 through 2004 when the team earned three gold medals as world champions. Gardner introduced Medicare as secretary of health, education and welfare under President Lyndon B. Johnson and later founded Common Cause.

DeLeon said Hacker “revolutionized women’s concept of what they could accomplish,” and although Gardner was widely admired for his efforts to promote integrity in government, many did not realize he was a psychologist.

At the end of the interview, DeLeon was asked if there was anything else that he considered important that had not come up in the conversation. He commended The National Psychologist as an independent source of news for psychologists.

“It’s an outside voice that has to be heard,” DeLeon said.

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