The son of one of the last samurai of the Tokugawa shogunate, Iga Mori grew up in a swiftly changing Japan. He graduated from Tokyo’s Navy Medical College before traveling to California to study internal medicine at Cooper Medical College, where he received his MD in 1891. Mori and a small number of other Japanese students were among the first people of color at the school. Within two decades of Mori’s graduation, Cooper Medical College became Stanford’s School of Medicine.
The Kingdom of Hawai’i recruited Mori as part of a group of Japanese physicians who provided care to Japanese laborers in Hawai’i’s sugar plantations. After briefly returning to Japan in 1894 to serve as a field surgeon during the Sino-Japanese war, Mori traveled to the University of Glasgow in Scotland for further study in pathology and bacteriology.
Upon returning to Hawai’i, Mori and a fellow Japanese graduate of Cooper Medical College, Sanzaburo Kobayashi, founded the Japanese Physician’s Association. Mori’s reputation as a physician grew; his patients included Hawai’i’s Queen Liliuokalani and the visiting Japanese diplomat Count Munemitsu Mutsu.
Iga Mori is standing on the left in this photograph. His colleague and fellow Cooper Medical College graduate, Sanzaburo Kobayashi, is standing in the center.
Image courtesy of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, Victor Mori Collection