Thanks, Doc, for 40 years of caring
After 40 years, Dr. Clifford Kumamoto plans to hang up his stethoscope and say goodbye to heartworms and mange.
The senior veterinarian has spent a lifetime taking care of animals at the Animal Clinic on Wai'alae Avenue. It's going to be tough for him to say goodbye.
He estimates that approximately 5,000 patients come through the clinic doors annually. Doing the math, that means he's treated about 200,000 animals in his career.
"I've worked seven days a week. I haven't had a vacation in over 24 years," Kumamoto said.
Asked what he's most proud of in his career devoted to animals, he said: "We have had a lot of kids that come here that want to be vets. Many of them have succeeded. I'm proud of that."
This Kalihi boy remembers that being a vet wasn't his first choice. "I wanted to be a pediatrician first. Ever since I was in elementary school, I admired my pediatrician." His feelings toward devoting his life to pediatric medicine changed when he was in high school and he saw his 7-year-old cousin battle leukemia. After two years of suffering, his cousin died. "I don't think I could take seeing human beings suffer. We always had animals, so I decided to try vet school."
His road to veterinary school was bumpy at first. "The first time, I fooled around. I had no major at the University of Hawai'i. When I sent my transcripts to Kansas State University, the admissions office said, 'Hey, your grades aren't good enough. If you're serious, come here and show us what you can do.' "
Kumamoto listened. He went to Kansas State University and worked on improving his grades.
The second time he applied to veterinary school was a charm and he was accepted. After four years of study, he graduated in 1970 with a degree in veterinary medicine. Then Kumamoto joined the Army and was stationed in Atlanta.
Local veterinarian and Animal Clinic founder Dr. Nam Young Chung kept track of Kumamoto's career. "He tracked me down while I was in the Army and wanted me to work for him," Kumamoto said.
The rest is history. Kumamoto has treated Jackson chameleons, birds, rodents, dogs, cats and nearly everything else at the Pālolo clinic.
Kumamoto hasn't completely retired yet. Even though he announced his retirement at the end of last year, he's still working at the clinic "part-time" to ensure a smooth transition. The new owners of the Animal Clinic, Drs. Kristin Kunimoto and Matthew Leara, will be moving the clinic to nearby Koko Head Avenue sometime in March.
Kumamoto's legacy will live on in all the veterinary students he's taught and in all the animals he's treated.
I wish you the best, Dr. Kumamoto. Thank you for helping Hawai'i's animals.
Animal lover Leslie Kawamoto has been with The Advertiser for 19 years, or 133 in dog years. Read her blog at http://islandtails.honadvblogs.com.