With almost two decades in the public sector, Jon Fujii has risen through the ranks as a trusted leader for the Med-Quest Division, Hawaii’s Medicaid program. As health care services branch administrator, Jon leads a team of registered nurses, licensed social workers, and contract specialists to provide equitable and person-centered coverage to almost 400,000 Medicaid members.

In his role, Jon oversees a range of programs, including the five health plans that serve more than 99 percent of Hawaii’s Medicaid members. He also manages the contract with the Community Care Services health plan that delivers targeted services for members with severe mental illness. We recently caught up with Jon to learn how he motivates his team, prioritizes partnerships to address community needs, and practices gratitude.


Public sector leaders are the backbone of the U.S. health care safety net, overseeing critical services to support the health and well-being of millions of people across the nation. Portraits in Public Sector Leadership is a series that highlights public sector health care leaders across the country who share their inspiration for their roles — what they are proud of, what the work means to them, and how they strive to make public services work better for people across the nation. View the series


  • Who: Jon Fujii
  • Current Role: Health Care Services Branch Administrator, Med-QUEST Division, State of Hawaii
  • Public Sector Tenure: 17 years
  • CHCS Connection: Medicaid Pathways Program

Q. What’s a success — big or small — that you experienced recently?

A. We have quarterly meetings with all staff, often in-person. We discuss our vision for the team, goals, and progress, and then we connect them to the larger goals and vision of the direction we want to head in. When you’re in the weeds of the work, it’s easy to forget your “why,” so my hope is that this meeting reminds us of our purpose. We also have refreshments and celebrate one another. Staff do wonderful work to serve members every day, and they deserve recognition.

We recently implemented the Health Care Services Branch Employee of the Quarter award to celebrate colleagues, which we give out at these meetings. Staff can nominate each other, and the branch’s supervisors and I review and select the winner. The employee gets a certificate, a gift card to a store of their choice, and a name-engraved plaque that we hang in our office.

Q. How do partnerships support your work?

A. We understand that Medicaid is a piece of the puzzle for the entire health care system in Hawaii, and one of our core values is working in the community and building partnerships. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to leverage our relationship with health plans to support small providers, like nursing homes and foster homes. These providers had difficulty getting gloves, masks, and other personal protective equipment. The health plans were eager to help, so we worked with them to distribute supplies to providers across neighboring islands.

Q. When you talk about the community you and your team serve, there seems to be a very strong sense of connection. How does this impact your work day-to-day and in crises like the wildfires in Maui?

A. As a remote state 2,500 miles from any other large land mass, Hawaii can feel disconnected to our sister states in the continental U.S.; and as an island state, those of us on Oahu can also feel disconnected to the less populated neighbor islands if we are not intentional with our actions and communications. Community has been historically important because those that live in Hawaii have often only had each other.

Building a sense of community among the various islands within Hawaii is important to us at Medicaid, so that we can better understand the specific health care needs of each island and respond appropriately. Fostering these inter-island connections with regular in-person visits, having offices on each major island, and frequent touch points via Zoom/MS Teams helps us keep up with the pulse and flow of each island.

It is these regular business practices that enabled Medicaid to respond quickly and compassionately to the Maui wildfire crisis. We were able to lean on these connections to serve those on Maui that were hurting, struggling, and grieving in the wake of this terrible disaster. Hawaii’s Medicaid response to the Maui wildfire disaster has resulted in national recognition on two fronts — Hawaii was awarded the 2023 National Association of Medicaid Directors Spotlight Award, as well as the 2024 Association of Community Affiliated Plans Leadership in Advocacy Award. As we continue to build our connections and relations in our community, we believe we can effectively serve those most in need.

Q. What keeps you motivated, especially on difficult days?

A. I appreciate hearing about the impact that Medicaid has in the community. Because of my role, I don’t directly work with members, but I enjoy hearing the stories from my colleagues about how Medicaid has changed someone’s life. When we make changes like updating our eligibility criteria, so mothers and children get Medicaid coverage, or someone is able to stay on Medicaid longer — these changes are rewarding. Working in Medicaid is hard, but in the end, we stay in Medicaid because we can have a positive impact for almost 400,000 members in Hawaii. I also practice gratitude. I am thankful for my job, my colleagues, and the members we serve. 

Q. How do you address staff burnout?

A. We try to get ahead of that by supporting staff to take time when they need it. I encourage staff to take paid time off as they feel the need to and flex their work schedules to accommodate personal commitments. I know how hard it can be taking care of loved ones and feeling guilty about work responsibilities, so we try to create a culture that is flexible and allows people to get work done. 

Q. How do you rest and get reenergized outside of work?

A. There are a few activities that keep me grounded. My wife and I both serve in a ministry at our church. Although it’s a large time investment, we find that the reward is greater when we serve. Secondly, we both like to spend time at the gym and take evening walks after dinner.  I like to pick flowers from a tree in my yard and make leis to give away. Lastly, we like to travel – our last big trip was to London, Germany, Vienna, and Budapest to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary!

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