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Dr. Nobuyuki Kawata, 81; Cardiologist at UCLA

April 03, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Dr. Nobuyuki Kawata, UCLA cardiologist and professor who helped develop the UCLA Heart Failure and Heart Transplant Program, which is now among the world's largest, has died. He was 81.

Kawata died March 27 at UCLA Medical Center of complications from chronic lung disease, university officials said.

More than 1,100 heart transplants have been performed at UCLA since Kawata helped establish the program in 1984 along with Dr. Hillel Laks.

"His [Kawata's] leadership has elevated the state of cardiology at UCLA and has contributed to its prominence," said Laks, now director of the UCLA Heart and Lung Transplant Program.

Dr. Gerald S. Levey, provost of UCLA Medical Sciences and dean of the UCLA School of Medicine, called Kawata "a true leader and visionary in the field of cardiology."

Kawata also founded the private medical practice known as University Cardiovascular Medical Group, based on the campus, and worked with UCLA for patient care, research and teaching.

Known as a gifted teacher, Kawata earned the annual UCLA Clinical Faculty Teaching Award six times during the 22 years he taught at the university. He was also a benefactor of UCLA and endowed the Chizuko Kawata Chair in Cardiology honoring his late first wife.

A native Californian, Kawata and his family spent World War II in a Japanese American internment camp.

He later founded the Japanese American Medical Assn. and worked actively in the Japan-American Society and the Japanese American National Museum.

Kawata earned a bachelor's degree in zoology and a master's in physiology from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., then received his medical degree at UC San Francisco and served in the Army Medical Corp.

Before joining UCLA in 1980, he was chief of medicine and chief of staff at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood, where he was instrumental in expanding rehabilitation services and facilities for stroke victims.

Kawata is survived by his second wife, Elaine Albanese; two children, Diana Watanabe and Dr. Carol Kawata; two brothers, Teruo and Sakae Kawata; a sister, Miyeko Uriu; and five grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday in the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.

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