Mark Wakabayashi, M.D., M.P.H., has been named chief of the Department of Surgery’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology.
In making the move, Wakabayashi is trading tropical breezes for hot Santa Ana winds and rugged volcanoes for San Gabriel Mountains. Wakabayashi joined City of Hope from the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children and the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
“Everything has gone so well, it was just meant to be,” Wakabayashi said. “City of Hope has a national reputation. I had a small thought about coming here, but when I met people from City of Hope, they were so genuinely nice — and the people in Hawaii who had trained here had nothing but good things to say about it. So it came together.”
Wakabayashi started on May 1. Although he was meant to avoid clinical services during his first week so that he could move into his office and settle into his new role, he began receiving referrals from other physicians, saw patients throughout the week — as well as the weekend — and performed two surgeries.
“People say, 'Hey, you’re the new gyn guy,’” Wakabayashi said, with a laugh. “It’s already busy. I’m definitely not sitting around waiting for people to call.”
He would have it no other way. City of Hope patients now are benefiting from improved gynecologic oncology services, and physicians have been eagerly anticipating Wakabayashi’s arrival. Rather than fearing the challenge, Wakabayashi relishes the opportunity to build the gynecologic oncology division.
Wakabayashi will handle four or five clinics (two to two-and-a-half days of clinical time) each week. He will perform needed services ranging from pelvic exams to complex surgical procedures for ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancers.
On the research side, Wakabayashi envisions the division addressing issues of quality of life related to menopause and other gynecologic issues among cancer survivors. But during his first few months at City of Hope, Wakabayashi intends to focus the division’s efforts intensively on patient care.
“Clinical services have to be at their peak first,” he said. “I’ll be happy if in five years, people say, 'You have a strong clinical program.’”
Wakabayashi has a robust clinical background. He received his medical degree from the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University of Chicago. He completed his obstetrics and gynecology residency at the University of Hawaii, where he also graduated from the public health program. In addition, he completed a gynecologic oncology fellowship at the Stritch School of Medicine.
While he joins City of Hope from Hawaii, Wakabayashi is no stranger to Southern California. He was raised in Culver City, Calif., where many of his family members still live. He currently lives in South Pasadena, Calif., with his wife, Gillian Wakabayashi, and daughters Lauren, 12, and Grace, 9, and son Noah, 6.