Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: John Kanda Interview
Narrator: John Kanda
Interviewer: Ronald Magden
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 12, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-kjohn-01-0010

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RM: So, did you get married about this time to Grace, or...?

JK: Oh, no. [Laughs] I was single, I was single.

RM: She comes after medical school?

JK: No, so I worked my way through University of Washington the four years. I had to work my way through part of the medical school, too. And did things that the medical school didn't want you to be doin'. But we worked for private hospitals as we got into the junior and senior year for room, board, and laundry type of thing.

RM: When did you graduate from medical school?

JK: 1954.

RM: And as a general practitioner?

JK: Well, it was a general, I mean, I could have gone into anything at that point, but I wanted to get back to the valley where I grew up. Not necessarily into Auburn, but where, but to the valley area. And so I looked for my residency, internship residency program on the West Coast, and the Pierce County Hospital (in Tacoma) was active at that time. They had three residents and ten interns every year. And so I was there for basically three years before I started my practice in Sumner, Washington.

RM: Sumner has had a long history of anti-Japanese agitation. Everybody I've ever talked to has wondered why you would pick the town that's had more trouble with and...?

JK: Well, I got asked that a whole lot, too. [Laughs]

RM: Yeah.

JK: And you know, my own feeling was that, "Hey look," you know being young and brash at that time, says, "I'm just as American as you are," type of feeling, you know? And, but in St. Louis, I took care of the blacks and Hispanics, and poor Caucasian and quite well-to-do Caucasians in the process of going to different hospitals that the St. Louis University had. And when I did my internship at the Pierce County Hospital, it's mostly where people that were, had little money, but, here again, the racial groups are different -- the Indians, Orientals, Hispanics, Caucasians. And I got along well with them and they got along well with me and they showed me no feelings of anti-Japanese racial feelings at all.

I got to know the specialists in Tacoma quite well because of being a resident and all. I was there, and they would give up time to be basically teachers at the county hospital. And so when I got ready to start practice, well some of them offered, "Why don't you come join us?" type of thing. But I wanted to get out to the valley. And that's one thing I wanted to do. I liked the fishing and the hunting, and that type of, mushrooming and things like that. And so one gynecologist/obstetrician that I got to know quite well, and he allowed me to do a lot of things under his guidance at the, in the surgery rooms. He suggested I go see (Dr. Denzler), Clark and Duffy there in Sumner. They're the three doctors that been there for a number of years. And they had rented one office, and said, "You go talk to them." So he called them and told them that I might be calling, and so when I called, they were ready to say, "Come over and..."

RM: Practice.

JK: "...chat with us." And so I did. They wondered why I wanted to come to Sumner because the feeling was that way. And I said, "Hey, look." I said, "I got along with these other people before, and I'm -- " whatcha call it -- "bullheaded enough to try, and I want a chance to try." And so they said, "Well, we'll try to help in every way we can." Their facilities were too small for them to take me, but they said if they was big enough they, they -- I feel they were honest about it -- said they would have me join them. And, but they said, "We'll give you the, anybody that was looking for a place, that we couldn't take care of 'em because of the..." they were busy people. But I took on the job of, working with the free clinics, baby shots and things like that, and school clinics. And the senior member of that group, the three doctors, he was the so-called city health officer. Well he said, "I'll give you this job. It only pays ten dollars a month, and you'll probably use more gas than that just servicing it, but..." Said, "If you watch the police, I mean, jail patients and you make sure that they have -- I mean, they'll be treating drunken diabetes or something like that so that they don't run into trouble that way and take care of their nicks and scrapes and things like that." So he said, "Then you'll get to meet interesting people in the city administration." So I said, "Fine." And because of the school connection because of the preschool shots and things, I got to know a lot of the nurses and whatnot, and it worked out real fine.

RM: Did the issue of socialized medicine ever come up in Sumner? Did you ever have to deal with that? You know, it was a big issue in the early 1950s, or actually all of the 1950s.

JK: Yeah, well you know, socialized medicine in a sense of, well, when I first started my internship and residency at Pierce County Hospital, took care of all the...

RM: Indigents.

JK: ...indigents, yeah. But on the other hand, when the... Medicare came through, their funding stopped. Okay, the government funding of that. And so now we all had the whatcha call it, to be able to go to our own hospital of choice and whatnot, doctor of choice. And that did in the county hospital system. I got quite a few county patients coming to me as private patients initially, and I, being the new guy on the block -- they hadn't had a new doctor in the Puyallup/Sumner area for years. And so they used to rotate the emergency calls on the weekends through the Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup. And so one doctor asked me would I take his weekend. And before you knew it I was taking weekends for about half a dozen, a dozen doctors. And so there I was kinda the emergency room doctor. And they would call the emergency room, says, "We would like to have a doctor come see us." I mean, you know, they says, "We can't bring him in. We can't afford an ambulance," type of thing. So the one taking the call says, "Well, we have a Japanese, new doctor, a Japanese. You don't want a Japan, mind Japanese -- [Laughs] -- ancestry, he'll be available." And most of 'em, they want to see a doctor, so they'll say, "Well, yeah fine. It makes no difference to us, send him in." And then I, and much of my practice was developed that way, through giving shots at the school, and going, and working in a free clinic, migrant industries clinic in Alderton, which is between Orting and Sumner.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.