TabataRussell Tabata (D.D.S. ’67)

Bill French Alumni Service Award

Tabata, leader of the Dental School’s Hawaiian alumni group, dedicates hours to recruiting, interviewing and recommending prospective Hawaiian dental students to his alma mater. He stays in touch while they are in school and helps them when they return to Hawaii to practice. The Hawaiian alumni connection and dedication to UMKC dates back to World War II, when the Kansas City Dental School was one of few schools that would accept students of Japanese ancestry.

Why do you stay engaged with UMKC at such a high level over such a long distance?

When I was in school in Kansas City, I had such a great experience. I felt the university helped me get to a place where I have had a very nice life. So I feel I want to help the university, especially the dental school, in any way I can to make the school a better place for new students coming in.

What is the single biggest misconception mainlanders have about day to day life in Hawaii?

When I went to school in the 1960s, they didn’t know much about Hawaii. They were thinking we lived in some little shack on the beach or something, they really didn’t know what it was like here. Now, I think people are very aware of what Hawaii is all about and that we do work really hard here. For people to make a living here and make a life for themselves, Hawaiians work really hard. It’s not that easy – it’s an expensive place to live, but there are a lot of nice things here.

Why is it important to you to assist and mentor young people with an interest in the profession?

I was fortunate and things worked very well for me. I didn’t have too many challenges along the way. So I feel that young people who, for example, don’t have family who were dentists like I had, it’s harder for them, and I’ve always felt that I wanted to help. I like to help people. I’ve also been involved with the Boy Scouts here in Hawaii for 20 years. Being with young people and helping them has always been an interest for me.

Puppy love
Uncrossing the wires

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