Catherine Uyehara has been pursuing science with a passion for as long as she can remember. She was always curious about the world, and found research to be an exciting way to discover new things. She believes in STEM outreach programs because she feels she owes her development as a scientist to inspiring teachers who went out of their way to encourage her curiosity. In middle school, a teacher enabled her to work in a university lab after school to do her first science fair project on using temperature to protect corn plants from fungus. In high school, she took part in a National Science Foundation summer science program, which, along with the guidance of an enthusiastic marine biology teacher, enabled her to win the State Science Fair with her study of a sea cucumber toxin that affected fish and shrimp hearts. While at Yale University, she decided to pursue a degree in psychology and biology, opening the doors to a career in neuroscience and physiology. Dr. Uyehara ended up earning a Bachelor of Science from Yale in 1981 and a PhD in physiology from the University of Hawaii in 1987. She then did her postdoctoral fellowship at SmithKline Beecham Labs in Philadelphia and discovered the excitement of cutting-edge technologies and working in industry. Despite few avenues for medical research back home in Hawaii at that time, she did return to the islands, determined to help establish a biomedical research industry in Hawaii that would help advance medical care in the Pacific and enable new discoveries that the unique opportunities the geographical environment and blend of cultures in Hawaii provides.
Now, Dr. Uyehara is both the Director of Research for the U.S. Army Regional Health Command-Pacific-Hawaii and the Chief of the Department of Clinical Investigation at the Tripler Army Medical Center. She coordinates collaborative opportunities for military medical research for the region and works with strategic groups to address concerns in the Pacific. Dr. Uyehara has found the region to be rich with potential. Some of the issues of distinct interest are delivery of long distance health care, global emerging infectious diseases, cultural differences in medical practices, environmental effects on health, and natural product pharmaceutical development.
As the chief of the Department of Clinical Investigation at the Tripler Army Medical Center, Dr. Uyehara is responsible for supporting graduate medical education. She oversees the basic science laboratory at Tripler, and helps physicians-in-training with military-relevant research projects, which are a requirement of their residency programs. The types of research range from molecular DNA and genetic research, to the study of cells, tissues, organs, and models of disease, through clinical trials in human beings. Dr. Uyehara considers this to be a particularly rewarding position; she loves watching the residents grow and develop. A ripple effect is created as each student branches out and goes on to make their mark on the future of medicine.
In her spare time, Dr. Uyehara enjoys crafting and gardening. She also does science outreach at the middle schools and high schools, and contributes articles to professional journals. As a testament to her hard work and dedication, she was honored with a Decorated Order of Military Medical Merit and with inclusion in numerous editions of Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Medicine and Healthcare, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Who’s Who in the West, Who’s Who in the World, and Who’s Who of American Women.