In the mid-1930s, Buhachi Esaki of Kaua'i had grand dreams for his son Tetsuya, the oldest of his eight children. Tetsuya was a top student who was studying to become a doctor. The elder Esaki scraped by to send his son to the best schools in Japan, where he finished college early and went on to medical school. But pride eventually turned into sorrow when Tetsuya contracted tuberculosis of the spine. Paralyzed and gravely ill, the new doctor returned to Kaua'i to the care of his family. He died eight years later, taking his father's dreams with him.
Dr. Paul Esaki, 53, doesn't know the details of his uncle's short life. But he remembers his grandfather's quiet sadness whenever he brought up the subject as a child. He also remembers the day he began considering medicine for his own career. "I was working in the fields with my father," Esaki recalls, "and just out of the blue, he said, 'You ever thought of becoming a doctor?'"
A generation later, Esaki feels like he is carrying on his uncle's work. Like him, Esaki decided he would practice on Kaua'i, where he was born and raised, and he ended up taking over the practice of the same doctor who had delivered him. As a family doctor in the little town of Kapa'a, he cares for a wide range of patients, many of whom have known him since he was an eager 22-year-old. He says he was drawn to small-town family medicine because it suited him well. Indeed, only in a rural town like Kapa'a, where Esaki runs a small, but busy practice, could he manage to fit in house calls.
A low-profile kind of guy, Esaki initially planned to focus solely on his practice. But requests over the years from various associations have kept him at the forefront of the local community. Currently, he sits on the board of Kauai Medical Associates and serves as a vice president and medical staff member at both Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Lihu'e and the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in Kapa'a.