UCLA School of Dentistry Receives $1 Million to Establish the Dr. Susumu Miyata Endowment for Educational and Cultural Exchange

Posted on: Tuesday, 05/02/2006

The UCLA School of Dentistry has received a $1 million gift from Dr. Susumu Miyata, chairman of the board of trustees of Meikai University and Asahi University.

For the past 13 years, Miyata, a Japanese educational entrepreneur and philanthropist, has sponsored an educational exchange program for the students of the UCLA School of Dentistry and the dental schools at Meikai and Asahi Universities. This gift formally establishes the Dr. Susumu Miyata Endowment for Educational and Cultural Exchange, secures its future, and makes it possible to expand the program to include an exchange of faculty visits. The endowment will fund the travel and administrative costs of the UCLA School of Dentistry students and clinical and research faculty members who participate in the exchange.

"Dr. Miyata's vision and generosity have given rise to a memorable exchange program that deeply enriches the UCLA School of Dentistry," said Dr. No-Hee Park, dean of the UCLA School of Dentistry. "Over the years, this exchange has produced many academic and research collaborations as well as invaluable friendships."

Miyata's father, Dr. Keisaburo Miyata (1906–97), was a dentist, an inventor and the founder of Meikai and Asahi universities. The manager of his family's educational enterprises, and a social scientist by training, Susumu Miyata has been a lifelong advocate of the need to enhance international and intercultural understanding through "person-to-person diplomacy." The exchange program between UCLA and Meikai and Asahi universities was generated by the friendship of Dr. Henry Takei of the UCLA School of Dentistry, Dr. Hiroshi Kawazu of MeikaiUniversity and Miyata.

The first exchange of students took place in 1993, when five students each from the dental schools of Meikai and Asahi universities visited UCLA. One year later, five students and two faculty members from the UCLA School of Dentistry journeyed to Japan. Over time, the number of UCLA student participants has grown to 10 per year. To date, 199 students have participated in this exchange program, 128 from Meikai and Asahi universities and 71 from UCLA.

"Every year of the exchange, the UCLA students admire the technology in Meikai's and Asahi's training facilities, and the Japanese students take a keen interest in our patient care, but the real power of this program is in the cultural and interpersonal exchange that takes place," said Dr. Carol Bibb, assistant dean of student affairs at the UCLA School of Dentistry and an early faculty participant in the exchange program.

The first part of the annual exchange occurs over the course of 10 days in August when students from Meikai and Asahi universities visit UCLA. As a guest of part-time UCLA faculty member Dr. Takumi Kagawa, they have the opportunity to observe firsthand the challenges of running a private dental practice in Little Tokyo. The students also spend time with Dr. Ichiro Nishimura of the UCLA School of Dentistry's Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology, who offers insights on the current state of dental research. Dr. Ronald Mito, associate dean of clinical dental sciences, provides the group with an overview of the U.S. dental education system. And, of course, the Japanese students take time for a Los Angeles Dodgers game and a visit to Disneyland.

The exchange is completed each academic year during spring break when a group of UCLA students and two members of the faculty travel to Japan to reunite with their Japanese counterparts. The students divide their time between Asahi University in Gifu and MeikaiUniversity in Tokyo, where they learn about the Japanese systems of health care and dental education. They also visit historical and cultural sites including Mt. Fuji and a Buddhist monastery as part of their immersion in Japanese culture.

"The Miyata exchange program exposes UCLA students to a different culture and way of delivering healthcare. It's an important educational experience that helps develop their professional maturity," said Diana Messadi, associate professor and chair of oral medicine at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

"My visit to Japan made me more culturally aware and reaffirmed my desire to respect the diverse cultural backgrounds of the patients I treat here in Los Angeles," said Karen Potter, a third-year UCLA School of Dentistry student who participated in the most recent exchange.

In May 2005, Dean Park and a delegation of UCLA School of Dentistry faculty members traveled to Tokyo for a formal signing ceremony recognizing the establishment of the Dr. Susumu Miyata Endowment for Educational and Cultural Exchange. At 5 p.m., on Tuesday, May 2, Park and the board of counselors of the UCLA School of Dentistry will host a ceremony and reception to honor Miyata and celebrate his gift. The event will be held in Room 13-041 in the Center for the Health Sciences.

"We are extremely fortunate that Dr. Miyata has chosen to strengthen the relationship between UCLA and Meikai and Asahi Universities," said Tom Mitchell, director of development at the UCLA School of Dentistry. "We look forward to thanking Dr. Miyata in person for his ongoing dedication to the School."

The UCLA School of Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of the people of California, the nation and the world, and has established an international reputation for its teaching, research, patient care and public service initiatives. The school provides education and training programs that develop leaders in dental education, research, the profession and the community; conducts research programs that generate new knowledge, promote oral health, and investigate the cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease; and delivers patient‑centered oral health care to the community and state.