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Danny Kaopuiki's

Kama`aina Profile

December 2008

The Doctor Is In...And Her Advice Is
"Go for it!"


Her name is Dr. Kaiulani ( Wilson) Morimoto and she is a plastic surgeon! Hers is a remarkable story of how the pathway of life can often be a long, twisting and difficult road. It also speaks of how much patience, hard work and perseverance it can take to reach a life objective! Perhaps, most importantly, Dr. Kai's story is also saying to all of us "Follow your dreams! Go for it! It can be done!"

Dr. Kai smiles when she reminisces about the days of her youth at Manoa Elementary and Kalaheo HS where her "major" was cutting classes to go surfing and doing teen age fun stuff. She smiles especially when she thinks about going back to a future Kalaheo HS reunion and meeting up with her classmates who dubbed her as one of those "most likely to fail!"

It took her eighteen years after graduating from Kalaheo High School in Honolulu to finally achieve a very rare distinction, that of being certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Four years ago, she was hired to create the Plastic Surgery Department of the Rockwood Clinic in Spokane, WA which she now heads. She was acclaimed in 2007 as one of the best reconstructive/cosmetic/hand plastic surgeons in the nation!

After graduating from Kalaheo, Kai's primary interest was in the Arts (especially Sculpture) until she saw the Medical Sciences Building on the University of Hawaii/Manoa campus where the seed for a medical profession was planted. She wanted to be a doctor but treating patients with chronic type diseases was not for her. She wanted to be in a field where she could fix things right then and there! Surgery was her first choice until she realized she could combine her best aspirations (surgery and sculpture) by specializing in the plastic surgery profession! For the fans of the television shows that flaunt plastic surgery as something only for the rich and famous who want to look younger in face and body, Kai says that her work goes far beyond that. Her patients are from every age group (children, adults, seniors) and their needs may range from enhancing their appearance to correcting deformities or disfigurements created by a myriad of causes (illnesses, accidents, birth defects, et al). Her gratification comes from watching her patients improve physically as well as emotionally as they all seem to become more self confident after surgery. Kai's grandmother Patricia Hodgins was half Hawaiian and Kai treats all her patients with a warm, full of Aloha style and, in turn, they all have embraced Kai into their respective ohana circles.

Kai's academia and medical resume is a fascinating read! Kalaheo HS was followed by five years at the University of Hawaii, then a year of Emergency Medic Training at Kapiolani CC followed by four years at the U of Hawaii John Burns Medical School. She was a surgeon at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle for three years followed by five years of specialized medical training fellowships (Microsurgery, Burn Surgery, Orthopedic Hand Surgery and Plastic Surgery). These were difficult times with long hours of hard work and study, times that she might not have survived had it not been for her husband Thomas Morimoto (Wailuku, Maui). Kai says that Thomas was her rock, her port in the storm, the Mr Mom for their children, the stabilizing factor in the long eighteen years of schooling and training she had to undergo to become a Doctor specializing in plastic surgery!

Kai met Tom Morimoto back in those days when sand/sea/surf were the most important elements of her life. At age 16, she was hired on for her first job, working for a Dominos Pizza place. Typical "tita" style, she reported to work with no shoes and was sent home. The next day, she checked into the workplace and Tom was assigned to be her mentor (which Tom thought was the worst thing that could ever happen to him, wondering how he could train someone who was so dumb as to not wear shoes to work?) Seven years later, they married.

Kai and Tom have three children, sons Alika (11), Joshua (6) and daughter Paige Pualani (2)! Kai and her ohana love the Spokane, WA area because the people there are so warm and friendly, reminding them of the people back in Hawaii. Dr Kai further perpetuates her Hawaiian culture by dancing with the Northwest Hula Company in Spokane.

One of Dr. Kai's most enduring memories is of her asking a General Surgeon in Hawaii for a recommendation letter to get into a residency program. A part of her Hawaiian cultural learning was to "speak when you have something to say" so she had always been "quiet" unless she had something to say. The General Surgeon denied her request because he interpreted Kai's quiet style as being "too quiet and shy to handle being a doctor". The rest, as they say, is history, as Dr. Kai Morimoto has proven beyond doubt that she can "handle" it. Her guidance to all of us....."Believe in yourself and don't let others discourage you from fulfilling your dreams!"

Mahalo Dr. Kai Morimoto for all that you do! You have demonstrated that a one time barefoot surfer wahine can reach the top in the most technically difficult plastic surgery profession! You are a marvelous role model for all of us.......

Dr. Kaiulani Morimoto.............You Da Man!!!!!!!

Until next time, be kind to each other……me ke Aloha pumehana……….Danny


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