“What are you looking at? I was home in Dublin at the time.” So Dr Edward Hashimoto quipped to his anatomy class Monday morning, December 8th – 1941.
Born February 24, 1911, the delivering physician, Dr William R. Tyndale, who arrived by horse and buggy, was snowbound for two days along with the newborn at the Hashimoto house as a winter storm raged.
The Venerable Old Irishman was in fact the son of a boom and bust Salt Lake businessman (E.D. Hashimoto Co.) and a college-educated (Kobe College) mother whose family traced her lineage back to the Japanese Samurai. An exceptionally bright student, young Edward was educated locally at the Stewart School on the University of Utah campus and later at East High, where he graduated at age 15. Upon graduation, Hashimoto enrolled at the University of Utah where he was awarded his A.B. degree at 18 in 1930.
The early death of his father from complications of diabetes Hashimoto recalled was an important factor that prompted his decision to pursue a career in medicine. At the time of his acceptance, the College of Medicine only offered a 2-year program. In 1932, Hashimoto headed east, to Boston where he completed his medical training at Harvard University in 1934.
Returning to Salt Lake in 1935, Dr Hashimoto thought, at 23, his age might be considered by some too young to start a practice. Consequently, he accepted a teaching position in the anatomy department at University of Utah. As his clinical skills increased, Dr Hashimoto did begin to see patients at Holy Cross Hospital and much later on at University Hospital. Throughout his professional career, Dr Hashimoto also provided for patients at his residence at 12th East and 3rd South maintaining a downstairs office.
In the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Dr Hashimoto thought to volunteer for service in the medical corps, but was quickly dissuaded from doing so by University president, George Thomas, who told his valuable faculty member: “No way you are going to do that, I haven’t got another teacher of gross anatomy.” Because of the large influx of Japanese-American nationals from the West Coast who were interred at Topaz outside of Delta, Dr Hashimoto did in fact render service performing numerous operations and attending to the needs of the sick at the camp throughout the duration of the war.
Dr Hashimoto later reflected that his circle of well-educated friends, at the University and Holy Cross, as well as his “good neighbors on all sides” sheltered him from much of the prejudice that was sometimes visited upon others less fortunate during the war. And although he himself occasionally encountered the odd unenlightened soul, much of Dr Hashimoto’s recollections of those years were of him characteristically immersed in his usual routine: “I had no bad memories of that particular era; it was just another day, another month, another year.”
Dr Hashimoto first met the girl who would later become his wife several years after the conclusion of World War II. Joy Takeyama’s grandmother, whose family had relocated east to Salt Lake from the west coast during the war had been diagnosed with a sigmoid neoplasm. Dr Hashimoto was summoned to perform the surgery. One day, the young Carleton College (Minnesota) student, who had come to Salt Lake to assist with the convalescence, met the – if not young, certainly to her mind – most eligible bachelor in town. The interest was reciprocated and so began an amusing and ultimately long-distance courtship that culminated with the 40-year old physician-anatomist and the 24-year old University of North Dakota graduate marrying in 1951 in South Dakota.
Throughout his teaching career, Dr Hashimoto combined humor with an unorthodox style of pedagogy that turned an otherwise arid and exhausting exercise of rote memorization into one of curious exploration for his legion of first and second-year students. He would always instruct his class: “Forget about it, don’t try to memorize anything, I will tell you what you have to learn and why you have to learn it.” And nothing tickled Dr Hashimoto more, in a well-intended way, than to scandalize the youthful sensibilities of his students: “You can remember a dirty story longer than you can a clean story … so much of school is so stuffy, so I [saw] that being a way to open the windows.” Hand-in-hand, another way Dr Hashimoto accomplished that were his legendary blackboard drawings which he executed with both hands as he lectured.
Over the course of his remarkable career, Dr Hashimoto was regularly recognized as one of the medical school’s best professors and fondly remembered by his students as their favorite. Upon his retirement in 1985, Dr Hashimoto had served fifty years – the longest tenured professor in the University’s history. Dr Hashimoto died August 27, 1987. Edward I. Hashimoto, M.D.’s career is probably best summarized by the graduating class of 1973 who in the Medicine Man yearbook that year lauded him as: “A legend in his own time, esteemed by practitioners and laity alike; his ambidextrous artistic talents, incomparable understanding of human anatomy and sly wit have made him the favorite of generations.” One could do worse than be a naughty Irishman.