UH Med Now

Japanese-American couple faced discrimination while seeking medical careers

Date: April 16th, 2021 in JABSOM News    Print or PDF

For scholarship and other information, check out the UH Foundation website.

Japanese-American couple faced discrimination while seeking medical careers 

By Paula Bender, JABSOM Communications

Shigeru Horio Portrait Photo, 1970s

Shigeru Horio portrait circa 1970s. Dr. David Horio provided photo.

Researching the many scholarship opportunities available to students attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and for those accepted into the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) program, one cannot overlook how they were seeded because of experiences and encounters. 

One such scholarship is the Shigeru and May Horio Memorial Scholarship Fund, named for the parents of David Horio, MD, a JABSOM assistant professor of the Department of Pathology and the Office of Medical Education. 

Dr. David Horio’s parents were denied several opportunities because they were Japanese. But they persisted and achieved their professional goals. This scholarship is for first-year medical students at JABSOM, that point in life where one can be so thrilled and so terrified because of this new and daunting journey. Dr. David Horio, a graduate of the JABSOM two-year school in 1969 and from Harvard Medical School in 1971, says that he enjoys the interactions he has as a teacher with medical students in the various ways he engages them. It should be noted that his father also taught at JABSOM as a volunteer clinical instructor and assistant professor of medicine from 1967 until 1976.

Shigeru Horio, MD, was the first Japanese-American in Hawaii certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in 1952. But it wasn’t easy. He was in his second year of medical school at the University of California at San Francisco where the preclerkship courses were held on the Berkeley campus in 1941-42. But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and war with Japan was declared, all persons of Japanese ancestry, including American-born citizens, were ordered to leave the West Coast by the end of March 1942. Shigeru Horio’s parents, through their employers, found jobs in Salt Lake City, Utah, and were not sent to internment camps.

Dr. Shigeru Horio received his M.D. in September, 1944, graduating with Utah’s first four year class. During this time he married May Yoshino whom he had known in San Francisco prior to the forced evacuation in 1942. They had a son, David, just prior to Shigeru’s graduation. Dr. David Horio’s mother, May Horio, nee Yoshino, was attending nursing school when she and her family were sent to an internment camp, where she was tapped for her nursing skills. Shigeru sent her nursing uniforms to show his support. While she left the camp to marry, May was denied entry into all of the nursing schools she applied to because she was Japanese.

Dr. Shigeru and May Horio did attain their personal and professional goals in Hawaii, but May did not become a nurse. Curious? Find out more about the couple for whom this scholarship is awarded annually. 



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