East Hawaii News

Ka`u Physician Appointed to Fill Coffman’s House Seat

January 10, 2014, 11:22 AM HST
* Updated January 10, 11:27 AM
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie has appointed a Kona physician to fill the state House of Representatives seat left vacant last month by the resignation of Rep. Denny Coffman.

Dr. Richard P. Creagan will assume the Fifth Representative District post immediately, and serve out the balance of the two-year term ending with the next general election on Nov. 4, 2014.

Coffman resigned from the House effective Dec. 20, saying he needed to spend more time on the mainland with his daughter who is battling cancer.

Coffman, who was in his third term in the House, lost his wife of 44 years to cancer last summer.

The district includes the area extending from Kailua-Kona to Naalehu, where Creagan lives with his wife, Marilyn.

Since moving to Hawaii from California 23 years ago, Creagan has worked in the Emergency Department at Kona Community Hospital, where he also serves as vice-chief of staff, the governor said in a press release.

He has also worked as a bioterrorism preparedness epidemiologist for the state Department of Health where he helps investigate and monitor disease outbreaks.

Creagan also helped found and operate the Hualalai Urgent Care clinic, and is vice president of Kiolakaa Mountain Farms, which he founded with his wife in 1994.

Marilyn Creagan is a labor and delivery nurse at Kona Community Hospital.

He first came to Hawaii in 1966 while training for the Peace Corps on Molokai in preparation for a two-year stint as a health care worker in the Marshall Islands. He speaks fluent Marshallese.

Creagan graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and then with an M.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He returned to school and earned a certificate in plant tissue culture in 2005 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2009 from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Before his medical career, Creagan was a student and human genetics researcher at Yale University and the University of Connecticut Medical Center. He later helped found and run San Francisco-based AGRI, a firm which focused on animal vaccines and human blood products. The start-up company was eventually bought after five years, which led to his move to Hawaii.

As an educator, Creagan assisted in teaching junior scientists at Yale and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer, seventh and eighth grade math and science in Pittsburgh, and has tutored students in English at Naalehu Elementary School.

Creagan’s appointment means the Big Island legislative delegation has two doctors, both of whom are emergency room physicians.

Dr. Josh Green, who was elected in 2012 to a second term in the state Senate, represents the Third Senatorial District which also extends from Kona to Ka`u.

“Richard’s diverse experience as a physician, researcher, farmer, Peace Corps volunteer and educator will contribute greatly to his service to the people of Hawaii,” Abercrombie said. “I look forward to working with Richard as a member of Hawaii’s House of Representatives.”

Abercrombie selected Creagan from a list of three candidates submitted by the Democratic Party, to which both Coffman and Creagan belong.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for the other names on the list.

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