“I got the chance to meet a large number of people, and they all became friends of mine,” Honkawa said. “Because of the relationships I developed with them and the trust they had with me, when it came down to presenting the loan package, I secured the votes and got it approved.”
Securing the loan guarantee that led to, as Honkawa puts it, “Cedars-Sinai becoming Cedars-Sinai,” is certainly one of the highlights Honkawa cites in his career, but he says it's hard to pick just one.
It is for his myriad accomplishments in healthcare administration and policy that Honkawa has been named one of this year's inductees into Modern Healthcare's Health Care Hall of Fame.
His career began in 1964 as comptroller and assistant administrator at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He was quickly promoted to associate administrator before joining the L.A. County Department of Hospitals in 1969 as director of fiscal and hospital program planning.
Honkawa credits his parents with giving him the work ethic and values on which his career has been built. The son of Japanese immigrants, he was raised in Billings, Mont. He recalls skipping his first year of school after listening to his mother teach his older siblings numbers and the alphabet every morning, when she herself spoke limited English upon arriving in the U.S.
His mother also dressed him up for school every morning, insisting that he wear a bowtie. “It was a lesson in pride and how you want people to perceive you,” Honkawa said.
At the restaurant the family owned, Honkawa helped alongside his parents and three older siblings. He watched his father, who spent 15 hours a day working in the restaurant, develop relationships with suppliers, customers and employees. Honkawa said those interactions and his father's dedication to his work taught him early lessons about honesty, integrity, loyalty and strength of character.
“Yoshi is one of the kindest, most caring and most decent human beings on earth,” said Leonard Schaeffer, founding chairman and retired CEO of WellPoint. “He's always there to help and facilitate a positive relationship, to get things resolved and bring people together.”