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Two doctors to be honored for significant contributions

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Aug 5, 2010

Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell
Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell
Dr. Benjamin Young
Dr. Benjamin Young
A celebration of two of Hawai‘i’s most prominent Native Hawaiian physicians is planned for Saturday, August 7, at the Ko‘olau Golf Course in Kane‘ohe at the Kekuni Blaisdell Endowment Dinner.
The 2010 honorees are Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell, 86, and Dr. Benjamin Young, 71. “Both have made significant, lifelong contributions to Native Hawaiian health,” said Dr. Nanette Judd, director of the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence in the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).
The dinner begins with no-host cocktails at 5:00 p.m. and a formal program starting at 5:45 p.m. Dinner reservations or donations may be made by contacting Geri Kaleponi at or 469-4380 extension 1. Tickets are $150 per seat, and checks should be made payable to UH Foundation – Kekuni Blaisdell Endowment Dinner. A portion of the contribution will be tax deductible.
The Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell Endowment Dinner is a fundraising event to benefit the Kekuni Blaisdell Endowment Fund, which exists to improve access to health-care services for Native Hawaiians and to increase educational opportunities for Native Hawaiian students pursuing careers in medicine.
In 2004, the endowment was established in the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence through a generous donation to the UH Foundation by Dr. Osamu Fukuyama. The 1976 JABSOM graduate is a cardiologist, and trained as a medical student under Dr. Blaisdell. 
About Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell
In 1983, Dr. Blaisdell helped author a ground-breaking paper that called attention to declining health among Native Hawaiians. His scholarship and leadership eventually led to legislation and considerable funding from the U.S. Congress for programs that directly impact the health of Native Hawaiians.
A 1942 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Dr. Blaisdell became an expert in the medical fields of hematology and pathology. He was appointed to the U.S. Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Hiroshima and Nagasaki following World War II, to study the effects of radiation on people exposed to the atomic bombs exploded in those cities. While in Japan, he adopted a war orphan who was about a year and a half old.
 “I was single when I met little Mitsunori,” said Dr. Blaisdell. “I took him back with me to the University of Chicago, where I was working, and within a year I met a lovely nurse there, Irene Saito, a Waimanalo girl.
“We were married, and Mitsunori—we call him Mitch—was best man at our wedding,” Dr. Blaisdell continued, with a chuckle.  The Blaisdells’ daughter, Nalani, was born the following year, he said. 
Dr. Blaisdell was recruited from the University of Chicago to become the first Chair of Medicine at JABSOM, where he remains a professor emeritus. He is co-founder of E Ola Mau (a Native Hawaiian health-care professionals organization) and charter member of ‘Ahahui o na Kauka (Association of Native Hawaiian Physicians). 
“Dr. Blaisdell is the premier historian on the history of medicine, on Polynesian medicine and on Hawaiian Health, and is the most respected elder physicians among all Native Hawaiian physicians,” said Dr. Ben Young, who also is being recognized at this year’s event.
About Dr. Ben Young
Dr. Young, a 1956 graduate of Roosevelt High, was dean of students at JABSOM for nearly 15 years, and is past director of the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence. He is the founder of JABSOM’s Imi Ho‘ola Post-Baccalaureate Program, which for 30 years has recruited students from socially, educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds who show promise to become physicians serving the communities they come from.
Dr. Young also was the physician aboard the historic first voyage of the Hokule‘a in 1976, serving as one of 13 crew members as the canoe sailed back to Hawai‘i from Tahiti after its first sail across the Pacific.
The psychiatrist has also become a noted historian, documenting the practice of medicine by Native Hawaiians around the world. He was recently recognized by the Hawaiian Historical Society as a Distinguished Historian.