Friday, March 19, 2010

Legislator Spotlight: Rep. Michael Honda a Strong Advocate for the Biomedical Industry in California
Since 2001, Mike Honda has represented the 15th Congressional District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is in his sixth year as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and also serves on the Appropriations Committee, with postings on several subcommittees. Although born in California, Honda spent his early childhood with his family in an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Colorado during World War II. In addition to serving in the Peace Corps for two years in El Salvador, Honda earned bachelor's degrees in biological sciences and Spanish, and a master's degree in education from San Jose State University. Honda has been a science teacher, has served as a principal at two public schools, and conducted educational research at Stanford University. His political career has included stints on San Jose's Planning Commission, the San Jose Unified School Board, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Honda also served in the California State Assembly from 1996 to 2000 before being elected to Congress. He is widowed with two grown children and three grandsons.

Honda has sleep apnea, a condition in which people stop breathing during sleep—sometimes hundreds of times during the night, and often for a minute or longer. With each episode, the brain rouses the person from sleep to resume breathing. The condition is quite common and affects more than 12 million Americans. Sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency and headaches—as well as diminished motor skills caused by sleep deprivation. Left untreated, the disorder can be life-threatening.

Honda became aware of his condition when he participated in a sleep apnea study at
Stanford University. The study was part of a physical exam, which was required for his job on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. The sleep apnea exam was supposed to last two nights, with Honda attached to electrodes to determine the quality and depth of his sleep state.

“My case was so pronounced,” Honda said, “that the technician barged in after four hours.” For the remainder of the evaluation, Honda slept with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, developed by CHI member company
ResMed. The San Diego-based company develops, manufactures and markets products for a range of sleep-disordered breathing and other respiratory conditions. “After just four hours [on the CPAP], I woke up so rested and my mind was so clear,” he said; “the difference was profound.” For the first three days, he felt like a completely different person.

Honda’s experience with sleep apnea has changed his perspective on healthcare and the biomedical industry providing treatments to patients. Honda sits on the congressional committee funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) and serves as Chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). In both roles, he has been a strong advocate of healthcare equity. On the appropriations committee he has consistently advocated for increased funding for Title VII diversity training programs and written report language aimed at increasing awareness about health equity issues. As Chairman of CAPAC, he has focused on health equity issues that particularly affect the AAPI community.

Click here to read the full profile on Congressman Mike Honda in the 2010 California Biomedical Industry Report.

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