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Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson
 Issue 199 - June 18, 2019
Dear Friends,

I have some very sad news to share. As some of you know, I've recently been vacationing in France, and tragically this past week, my daughter Nancy Perkins, who was traveling with us, suddenly passed away. Nancy and her husband Charles, seen in the photo below, which was taken just a few days ago, were having a great time on the trip. Nancy had a wonderful ability to live life to the fullest - it was one of the many things I loved about her. I wanted you to hear the news of my daughter's passing from me, and I ask you to please keep her in your hearts. I will return to work in early July after attending to Nancy's affairs. Thank you to everyone who has reached out. Your texts and emails have been comforting. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Barbara signature, first name only
Thanks to the generosity of Arlene Kageyama-Chikami, the UNLV School of Medicine has received its first bequest, one which ensures that many of our students receive scholarships for years to come. It’s officially known as the Arlene M. Kageyama-Chikami and Richard K. Chikami Scholarship Endowment Fund. The couple discussed what they would do with their savings from their long careers. Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami said an article she read about people donating scholarships to medical students at a new medical school made a strong impression on her. “I thought it was wonderful,” she said. “Without having to deal with horrendous debt, students could pick the medical field they really wanted.” She also said she and her husband wanted to leave a meaningful legacy, and helping to turn out more excellent doctors in a community where there was a shortage would do just that. “We wanted to be remembered for something positive. We never had children, so the students who receive scholarships from our endowment will be our children.” I hope you enjoy reading about Arlene and Richard Chikami, two wonderful people who are helping us transform medicine in Southern Nevada.
Barbara signature, first name only
Arlene Kageyama-Chikami and husband Richard Chikami, who were married for 28 years, have created a generous endowment that will fund multiple student scholarships at the UNLV School of Medicine for years to come
The more you talk with Arlene Kageyama-Chikami -- she recently set up an endowment that will provide scholarships for future UNLV School of Medicine students -- the more you want to hear.

She sips coffee at the kitchen table in her home that sits inside one of Southern Nevada’s many 55 and over communities. In the living room is a jumbo sized model of the fishing vessel that her late husband, Richard Chikami, captained, a boat large enough to hold 1100 tons of tuna, large enough for a helicopter to make regular landings.

The memory lane she chooses to go down on this day is one full of joy, one so full of adoration for her late husband that it’s clear his death at age 71 from liver cancer just over a year ago hasn’t erased her love, that her memories are a way to celebrate his life, to bring him back to life.

Sunlight streams through the windows of her home as Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami laughs.

“Richard told me that a lot of fish died for that ring on your finger.”

Oh how she remembers Richard’s smile, his easy laugh, how he could make her giggle like a schoolgirl. She calls her favorite picture of them -- it accompanies this article with her holding him while wearing a white hat -- “the bearhug.” It could also easily be called “Joy.”

It’s no surprise that the endowment carries both her name and that of the love of her life -- the Arlene M. Kageyama-Chikami and Richard K. Chikami Scholarship Endowment Fund.

“You’re very lucky if you can find the right one, if you can latch on to your soulmate like I did,” the retired certified public accountant says, her smile lighting up the room as though she had just kissed the sunshine. “We didn’t inherit our money. Nobody gave us anything. We were just middle class people who worked hard, who saved their money and made some good investments.” 
The couple met in 1984, when a friend told her about a dinner party that her future husband’s sister-in-law was having in Los Angeles, where Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami then lived. Mr. Chikami, who often spent several weeks, and more often months, at sea, happened to be visiting his sister-in-law.

“Richard told me for him it was love at first sight.”

It wasn’t long before the pair started using shortwave radio to communicate when Mr. Chikami was at sea. Then came the use of phones and phone bills of $1000 a month. About a year after they met, he proposed. Though smitten, the woman who acted as a national financial accounting troubleshooter for aerospace giant TRW (it was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2002) wasn’t sure how well a marriage could work if a spouse was at sea for lengthy periods.

By 1989, however, she was ready to tie the knot, regardless of the fact she was allergic to fish.

“If I just touch a fish, I get the hives. If I inhale it, my throat closes off. Before we got married, I kissed a Greek sailor and didn’t realize he had eaten fish. My face blew up so big I couldn’t get my glasses on. I really needed Benadryl. Without it, I’d itch myself to death trying to sleep.”

Yes, she says, opposites do attract. “I love cats and he was allergic to cats.”
“If what my husband and I have done can help increase both the quantity and quality of physicians in Las Vegas, that would be a good thing.”
Love, she notes, really does conquer all if you’re careful not to induce allergic reactions. “After he retired (in the 90s), he’d take me fishing at a lake, but I didn’t have to bait the hook or, if I caught one, I didn’t have to take the fish off. He always used to joke that I was a terrible fisherman and the fish really had to be dumb if I caught one. I often didn’t notice one was on the line, didn’t feel it jerk. One time I got my line with a fish on it caught in the anchor line. He really laughed like crazy at that and wouldn’t let me forget it...If he was going to cook fish in the house, I’d be on the way out, tell him he was committing adultery again with his fish. Of course he’d air the place out before I came back.”  

She’ll never forget how it was decided where they would get married in 1989.

“Richard called me one day at work and told me his boat was in for repairs in Cairns, Australia (the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). He said, ‘Why don’t you come here and we’ll get married here?’ I said OK and asked when. He said, ‘Two weeks.’”  

Needless to say, she had to scramble just to get a dress, a visa, two bridesmaids and an airplane ticket for her own wedding. It was hectic, but she loved it. The spur of the moment idea was pure Richard. “He drove me down to Sydney and it was great.” Later, there would be a reception in California where her family and friends could greet the newlyweds.

Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami says her husband seemed to be born with a love of the sea. His dad was a fisherman. “His father was on a boat that went down in Alaska and was never found. But Richard wanted to be a fisherman like his dad. He wanted to start doing it professionally at 16 but his uncle said he had to graduate from high school first.”

At sea, he became a big reader, and his wife was proud that he seemed to know everything about the oceans and fish. People would write him asking him things about the ocean and he’d research it to get the right answer, which continued well after his retirement.

It was Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami’s job to come up with the right accounting answers for TRW/Northrop Grumman. “I’m proud of being with the same company for 34 years.” Once she had to go troubleshoot a problem in New Mexico that saw her company shorted millions of dollars on a government contract. She found how the government accounting system had missing information, which government administrators agreed with. “I asked if I could have the check then and they wanted to know if I could wait for an hour. I said sure because we had already waited two months. I walked out of there with a check for $30 million.”

A two time graduate of UCLA -- she did her undergraduate work in economics and earned her master’s in accounting and business management -- Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami says that since her 2009 retirement she hasn’t missed traveling across the U.S. to solve accounting problems. She and her husband would go to casinos, enjoy the shows and staycations, go fishing, just spend time together. She continues to enjoy the theater, frequently traveling to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles to attend plays. She also frequently visits her 98-year-old mother, who is in a skilled nursing facility, there.

Once a licensed airplane pilot and an avid golfer and skier -- “Once I get good at something I grow tired of it” -- Mrs. Kageyama-Chikami plans on skydiving soon. “It’s on my bucket list. I’ve already crossed off my list galloping a horse across a desert (in Peru).”

She still seems stunned about what happened last year. One morning her husband felt ill and she took him to the emergency room. Tests revealed he had advanced liver cancer. Regular doctor visits over the years never revealed a problem with his liver. He was medevaced to UCLA for treatment but he died within a week.

“It was a total shock. There was no time to do any planning. It was just terrible.”

Married for 28 years, she says her husband’s illness was made even more stressful by the fact that he had to be taken to Los Angeles for possible life-saving treatment. “We should have the proper medical care in Las Vegas. You shouldn’t have to leave town.” 

She not only hopes the endowment for scholarships will help take some of the “horrific debt burden” off students so they can pursue the medical field they want, but that they also increase the number of doctors in Southern Nevada.

“If what my husband and I have done can help increase both the quantity and quality of physicians in Las Vegas, that would be a good thing.”

50% of Adults

Nearly half of all adult Americans have cardiovascular disease

All previous issues of  Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson , are available on our website.
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