Toyokazu “Chris” Endo -- he’s the class president of what will be the first UNLV School of Medicine graduating class in 2021 -- was just 10-years-old and living in Germany when he saw a crippled lady crying and begging for help while holding her child in her arms.
“There was a powerful urge in me to help, yet I just walked right by her thinking someone else would step in. It haunts me to this day that I did nothing,” the native Las Vegan recalls. “From that day forward, I have made conscious decisions to step in when the opportunities have presented themselves.”
As the student council president at Durango High School, where he was valedictorian, he led food and clothing drives for the less fortunate. He also tutored. While an undergraduate at Duke University, he took EMT courses at the university and then went on to become a paramedic, taking classes at night at a community college. When he wasn’t attending Duke basketball games or studying -- the biology major graduated with honors -- he was providing life-saving emergency interventions in a rural community adjacent to the university. He continued the paramedic work in Las Vegas until the early demands of medical school wouldn’t allow it.
“Service is in my nature,” says Endo, who recently took another part-time job with an ambulance company as a paramedic. “I was really missing treating patients, serving my community.”
How Endo, who plans on becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, got to this place and time was full of twists and turns.
As a child, moving was the norm for his parents. His father, a Japanese business executive, would take assignments in four different countries before Endo was 12. His mother, a native of Korea, took care of Endo and his younger brother.
“I was born in Las Vegas when my mother was visiting her side of the family here,” Endo says. “I spoke Korean and Japanese growing up and I started to learn English while attending a traditional British school system. Yes, I used to have a British accent. We lived in England for eight years and again my father got promoted and we relocated to Germany for three years where I attended the international school in English. Then he was promoted again and we all moved back to Japan. I ended up living there for two years before telling my parents I was unhappy there...until then all my education had been in English...I convinced my parents that I belonged in the U.S. in order for me to pursue my education in English. It was the best decision I’ve ever made despite having to be away from my parents…I didn’t want to move around constantly (his father would later be transferred to Malaysia, China, Italy and Ohio), and I decided to stay here in Vegas with my aunt and grandma -- they became my legal guardians.”
Soon after Endo moved to Las Vegas -- he first attended Grant Sawyer Middle School -- his aunt gave him the nickname “Chris.”
“I’m asked all the time how I got ‘Chris’ out of Toyokazu,” Endo laughs. “It has nothing to do with my name. My aunt just thought it would be easier for everyone to handle."