David McEwan devotes life to creating meaningful change in Hawaii

From medicine to activism, politics, and religion.

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David McEwan is a recently retired family practice physician who has been serving Hawaii since 1977. Becoming a doctor had been a dream of his since he was eight years old. Growing up, he was deeply inspired by Father Damien, a Belgian priest who devoted his life to missionary work among the Hawaiian lepers of Molokai. Between his internship and residency, McEwan decided to take a year off and finally made his way to Hawaii.

By 1981, McEwan had diagnosed Hawaii’s first case of AIDS with pneumocystis pneumonia. On top of family medicine, McEwan says his life led to an unexpected world of activism, politics, and religion, along with immunology, infectious diseases and virology.

“In 1981, I got involved and was the co-founder of the Life Foundation, which is the AIDS Foundation of Hawaii,” McEwan says. “I became an advocate to make a new future for the LGBT community who were suffering so much from this disease.”

McEwan also worked with Marriage Project Hawaii, Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project, Protect Our Constitution, and Equality Hawaii. He says the battle came to fruition in 2013 when Governor Abercrombie signed the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act, legalizing same-sex marriage. Creating meaningful change in Hawaii has always been a priority for McEwan, and it’s evident with the work he has devoted his life to.

The words of wisdom he hopes to leave with today’s parents is that children must be encouraged to dream and to wonder and explore. He says if they don’t dream, they won’t have any hope, and hope is essential.

“I was told, ‘You can’t be a doctor, you’re not smart enough,’ and I went, ‘The heck with you!'” he says.

McEwan adds that Maya Angelou said it most beautifully: “You have everything you need right up here. Don’t let anyone tell you anything otherwise. You can be whatever you dream.”

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