Victor Yano is good Belau medicine

BS ’74, MD ’78 Mānoa

Victor Yano headshot

Named after one of the first Belauan physicians, who attended his mother in the delivery room, Victor Yano became a physician himself and helped transform medical care in the Pacific Island republic.

After completing post-graduate residency, Yano returned to Koror to practice medicine at his country’s lone hospital

An early patient was a critically injured visitor, who recovered thanks to a neurosurgical procedure Yano helped perform after consulting with a physician at the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. The grateful family sent a donation to Koror, which funded neurosurgical equipment for the hospital and sparked Yano’s commitment to improve health care on Belau.

On Thanksgiving Day 1981, the Belau Medical Clinic opened its doors, operating on private funds, including $200,000 raised by the Belau community. Patients soon come from neighboring island countries to be treated by Yano.

In 1995 Yano pushed to establish the Pacific Basin Medical Association, which provides professional development and support to medical practitioners throughout the region. Ten years later, he was appointed to head the Belau Ministry of Health and in 2010, won easy confirmation as minister of state.

For three decades, Yano mentored every local physician now practicing in Belau, so it should be no surprise that one of them, Stevenson J. Kuartei, succeeded Yano as Belau’s minister of health.

Yano was a 2006 recipient of the University of Hawaiʻi Distinguished Alumni Award.

—from East-West Center: Fifty Years, Fifty Stories

Dr. Corn Soon-Kwon Kim

PhD in horticulture ’74 Mānoa

Soon-Kwon Kim in cornfield

Dubbed the “father of maize,” Soon-Kown Kim directed the Maize Green Revolution, a national program that tripled corn yield in his native Korea during the late 1970s.

The program provided seeds that spurred an eight-fold increase in agricultural production during 17 years with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria. His work with high-yield, disease-resistant corn hybrids resulted in five Nobel Peace Prize nominations since 1992 and a 1998 University of Hawaiʻi Distinguished Alumni Award.

The son of a poor rural farmer, Kim knew firsthand the pangs of hunger. He studied agriculture in Korean and Hawaiʻi, where he worked with College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources horticulturalist Jim Brewbaker to developed corn seed resistant to the insects, parasites and diseases in South Korea.

“With this corn, I can change the world,” he thought, offering to go to jail if he failed in order to persuade Korean farmers and officials to try his seeds.

Kim spent 17 years in Africa, applying his hybrid techniques to produce high yielding crops farmers could grow without relying on chemicals to combat the pervasive maize streak virus.

Kim returned to Korea in 1995 as professor and director of the International Agricultural Institute at Kyungpook National University and instituted the Corn for Peace program to help restore relations between North and South Korea through technical assistance and seed/food aid.

“Corn doesn’t know Korea is divided,” he maintains.

Aboriginal activist educator Margaret Valadian

MA in education ’67 Mānoa

Margaret Valadian, headshot

When Margaret Valadian started school, Aborigines weren’t provided opportunities to pursue higher education in Australia, let alone expected to excel academically. But Valadian changed that.

With her own determination and her mother’s encouragement, she became the first Aboriginal woman university graduate in Australia when she received a bachelor of social studies in social work from the University of Queensland in 1966.

As an East-West Center grantee in Hawaiʻi and traveling across the United States to New York, where she earned a master’s in social work, she observed the fervor of the 1960s civil rights movements. She visited a voter registration campaign in the South, minority welfare programs in the East, Midwest and Southwest. She worked summers at a Native American school and attended the Saul Alinsky Institute for Community Development and Highlander Folk School in Alabama.

“It was not until I became involved in other indigenous communities that I saw the need to focus on change as a more appropriate policy and program direction,” she says.

The experiences provided a framework for the customized, non-formal education programs of the Aboriginal Training and Cultural Institute that she founded in Sydney in 1978 to create “a vehicle for bringing change to the lives and aspirations of disadvantaged Aborigines.”

The institute provided participants a sense of self-confidence, purpose and direction and the foundation to pursue their interests. It pioneered development of education and management training so Aboriginals could run community organizations as counselors, youth workers, teaching assistants and health workers.

Valadian went on to work with the University of Wollongong Aboriginal Education Center and to establish the Indigenous Social Development Institute before her recent retirement.

—from East-West Center: Fifty Years, Fifty Stories

Renowned linguist Ritsuko Kikusawa

Ritsuko Kikusawa

PhD in linguistics ’00 Mānoa

Japan National Museum of Ethnology anthropologist Ritsuko Kikusawa earned her doctorate in linguistics while she was a Crown Prince Akihito Scholar at the University of Hawaiʻi.

One of 132 scholar who have received support through the scholarship established by a Hawaiʻi man to honor Japenese emporer’s wedding, she was honored at the scholarship foundation’s 50th anniversary banquet.

Kikusawa has done pioneering work in the comparative grammar of Oceanic languages (including Hawaiian), reconstruction of the language of the first inhabitants of Fiji and Polynesia and discovery of how giant water taro was introduced into the Pacific area.

Ambassador Pamela Slutz

Pamela Slutz, headshot

MA in Asian studies and political science ’72 Mānoa

Daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer in Asia, Pamela Slutz has held diplomatic posts in Mongolia, Shanghai, Taiwan and Kenya. She has a special fondness for Indonesia, which was the focus of her UH academic background.

Arts educator Surapone Virulrak

Surapone virulrak, headshot

PhD in Asian theatre, Mānoa

A humble speech professor earns his nation’s highest honor in the arts for promoting traditional dance and using drama to address social issues.

Multicultural MD fan Satoru Izutsu

Satoru Izutsu, headshot

BA in psychology ’50 Mānoa

Veteran health educator and administrator Satoru Izutsu heads an international physician training program at the John A. Burns School of Medicine that he calls “the Peace Corps for medicine.”

Japan firefighter Scotty Rhode

Scotty Rhode, headshot

AS in fire science technology ’82 Honolulu Community College

During five years service in Sasebo, Japan, Richard “Scotty” Rhode left his mark on local culture and earned a medal for relief efforts following fuel tank fires resulting from an earthquake in northern Japan.