Home-grown Pride – From Maui Boy to Respected Ophthalmologist, Gratitude has Marked...

Home-grown Pride – From Maui Boy to Respected Ophthalmologist, Gratitude has Marked Dr. Shigemi Sugiki’s Career

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Photo of Dr. Shigemi Sugiki in his examination room at the Queen's Physician Office Building

Kevin Y. Kawamoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Photo of Dr. Sugiki standing in front of his wall of memories

Dr. Sugiki’s wall of memories include his Rokudan (sixth level) certificate from the Manoa Aiki Dojo, earned in 2011; a framed photocopy his Baldwin High School football teammates; prized halibut catches; and, above him, a photograph of his Washington University medical school mentor, Dr. Bernard Becker. (Photos by Kevin Kawamoto)

Dr. Shigemi Sugiki has been providing eye care in Hawai‘i for more than half a century and is one of the state’s most respected ophthalmologists. He has had many distinctions in his professional career: lifetime member and fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and past president of the Hawaii Ophthalmological Society. Ophthalmology is a medical specialty focusing on diseases and disorders of the eye. Sugiki has excelled in the field, especially in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma. At 80 years old, he continues to see patients at the Sugiki-Portis Eye Center in the Physicians Office Building 1 on the grounds of The Queen’s Medical Center.

Given his achievements in — and contributions to — the field of ophthalmology, as well as the satisfaction he exudes when talking about his work, there’s no question he chose the right career when deciding what to do with his life many decades ago. But the path forward was not an easy one for him as a young boy growing up in Wailuku, Maui. The youngest of 10 children, Sugiki grew up in a family that met the realities of economic hardship with hard work, thrift and gratitude. Some of his older siblings quit school early to work to help support themselves and family members, a sacrifice not uncommon among the early Nisei born into families struggling to make ends meet.

Sugiki’s mother, a picture bride from Hiroshima, understood well the meaning of loss. She endured the death of two husbands, the first one in Häna, Maui. Widowed with five children, she made the hard decision to take her children from their Häna sugar plantation home to Wailuku more than 50 miles west in search of better opportunities. The trip to Wailuku was made by boat because the Häna Highway was still being constructed.

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A 1950s Maui News photograph by Joe Konno of the Baldwin High School starting lineup with Shigemi Sugiki at quarterback (third from left).

One of the many interesting photos that caught contributing writer Kevin Kawamoto’s eye in Dr. Sugiki’s examination room was this photocopy of a circa 1950s Maui News photograph by Joe Konno of the Baldwin High School starting lineup with Shigemi Sugiki at quarterback (third from left). Sugiki said that back in those days, players were expected to play both offense and defense positions.

Photo of Dr. Sugiki (kneeling, fourth from left) with his fellow Manoa Aiki Dojo aikido club members.

Dr. Sugiki (kneeling, fourth from left) with his fellow Manoa Aiki Dojo aikido club members.

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