Alumni Profile: Dr. Satoru Izutsu ’50
by Liane Yim Smith
Dr. Satoru Izutsu (BA ’50 Mānoa)
Dr. Satoru Izutsu (BA ’50 Mānoa), a tenacious man with a big vision, shines in preparing medical students for their study abroad missions. He helps by opening their hearts to the world so they can serve the multi-cultural communities within the Asia-Pacific rim. “Our goal is to train physicians for the Pacific and Asia and that’s our mission at the John A. Burns School of Medicine – to become the best medical school with Asia-Pacific focus.”
He came from a small plantation village on Kaua‘i to attend Mid-Pacific Institute and graduated from UH Mānoa with a BA in psychology in 1950. “Hawai‘i was not a state back then, and we had a few international students but not many.” Izutsu continued, “The professors at UH were so multinational. They opened the world to the students by emphasizing that there is something out there that you need to explore.” Izutsu went on to serve in the Army during the Korean Conflict and retired after 30 years from the Active Reserve with the rank of colonel.
“In 1959 Hawai‘i became a state and what they did at that time was to go out into the U.S. mainland to find those of us who were in graduate work or had completed graduate studies to have us come home to contribute to the new state. I was going to live on the mainland the rest of my life, but that changed my mind.”
Izutsu took the word explore and ran with it, all the way to Columbia University for his training in occupational therapy and master’s degree in special education. He went on to Case-Western Reserve University to earn his doctorate. His first taste of international relations was as a volunteer for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of the Quaker group. His first international stint was in the former Yugoslavia, training physical rehabilitation workers.
Izutsu returned to Hawai‘i in 1961, and from here the impact he made and continues to make is impressive. Before joining the UH faculty, Izutsu served as superintendent of Waimano Training School and Hospital, a 860-bed hospital for the intellectual and developmentally challenged. He also was executive director of the Regional Medical Program of Hawai‘i and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In these roles he touched the lives of countless people facing health, medical and developmental challenges.
In 1976 Izutsu joined UH Mānoa as professor of public health and psychiatry. In this role, he administered training programs in family planning in seven countries: Hong Kong, Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia. He was also involved in helping to establish a health delivery system in northern Thailand.
Izutsu’s leadership in the medical education arena grew, and in 1988 he joined the School of Medicine as associate dean and became senior associate dean in 1999. Currently he is vice dean and director of admissions at the John A. Burns School of Medicine and director of the Office of International Medicine/Health. He is a licensed psychologist, nursing home administrator and occupational therapist.
A running theme in Izutsu’s life has been his passion for helping other countries, as evidenced by the 44-year-old University of Hawai‘i Postgraduate Medical Education project in Okinawa, of which he has been principle investigator for more than 20 years. This project involves providing training to physicians from Okinawa and mainland Japan by sending 12 teaching consultants each year from the U.S. and Hawai‘i.
Izutsu’s commitment and tenacity have brought medical education and critical programs to communities worldwide – and helped the University of Hawai‘i build international bridges for the future.
“Medicine/health is a universal language, and we should have more knowledge of the people we serve.”
Editor’s note: Dr. Satoru Izutsu was a 1993 recipient of the University of Hawai‘i Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award.