Dr. Derek Sakata, M.D., att. ’94, feels good to be at Pacific Union College. “I haven’t been back here in ten years,” he reflects. He has come for PUC’s annual Career Day, but sits back comfortably and opens up about his faith, education, successes and failures. Dr. Sakata’s story is unique and in many ways defies the stereotype to become a story of dedication and perseverance.
Dr. Sakata left his hometown of Lodi and arrived at PUC to begin the pre-engineering program. He felt the pressure of stereotype and recalls an incident in an organic chemistry class in which a fellow student was shocked to discover that Dr. Sakata, an Asian, was not studying towards medicine. “The stereotype was there even then,” he states. He believes that for Asians, “failure isn’t an option.” He pauses a moment, and continues, “But I think it’s good; you can learn from it.”
He is no stranger to setbacks, but firmly believes that they have helped him. After leaving PUC, he continued to University of California at Irvine to obtain his engineering degree. He completed his degree only to find that job opportunities were not coming easily. It was then that he made the decision to attend medical school, wanting to combine his love for math and design with a medical career. He returned to PUC for a year to finish prerequisites required for Loma Linda University.
“It’s like family here,” he says. “It’s cohesive, and the faculty cares about their students.” He remembers the first time he did not get an A on a test, “which didn’t happen for me — I got A's, not B's and C's.” His professor met with him to make sure everything was okay. It was something Dr. Sakata appreciated — knowing his professors cared.
He went on to Loma Linda University and completed school in 1999 to become an anesthesiologist. Dr. Sakata moved to Utah with his wife, Cindy A. Sumarauw, D.D.S.,’94,and began doing clinical studies at University of Utah and practicing anesthesiology. Living in Utah has been a great experience for Dr. Sakata, and he finds that his faith has not conflicted with his career. “Utah is predominantly Mormon, and they understand the Sabbath principle and its importance,” he says.
“Religion helps more than you think,” he asserts. For him, it has helped him in great ways. Six years ago, he began research on a device intended to bring patients out of anesthesia faster. It was dubbed the QED-100 and has been on the market for a year and a half. Dr. Sakata is eager to see it succeed, believing it is a benefit to patients and families everywhere. Through the process of creation and marketing, Dr. Sakata believes this has all been very humbling. “I see the effect it has on patients and their families and how much of a difference it makes,” he explains. His hope is that it will continue to be successful in the future.
“Life is difficult,” Dr. Sakata states, “but you have to stick to it, keep going, keep striving.” For him, this is the greatest lesson life has taught him. “Most people don’t want to hear that life doesn’t get easier, but it’s true, so you have to keep going, and don’t give up.”
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