WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Lisa Dodobara, who plans a career as a bilingual pediatrician, is the latest recipient of the annual Connie Jill Carlstrom Endowed Award for Japanese Studies at Whitman College.

The Carlstrom Award, which includes a $2,000 cash prize, is presented each spring to one or more outstanding students of Japanese language and culture.

The Carlstrom Award honors the late Connie Jill Carlstrom of Yakima, Wash., who graduated from Whitman in May, 1993, and was teaching English in Japan when she died in September of that year. Ms. Carlstrom's family and friends, including her parents Connie and Roger Carlstrom of Yakima, established the awards program. This marks the 10th year the award has been given.

Dodobara, a senior Asian Studies major from Seattle, Wash., spent her junior year in Japan, taking classes as part of the Associated Kyoto Program. Whitman is one of 15 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. that selects about 40 students for intensive studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

While in Japan, Dodobara collected material for her honors thesis, which explores the ways in which communication patterns are changing between doctors and patients in Japan. Although Japan has used Western medical practices and techniques for decades, linguistic and cultural strategies used by doctors and patients remained traditionally Japanese. During the past 10 years, however, the high degree of trust placed in Japanese doctors has begun to lessen. Dodobara's thesis, which she presented at the recent Whitman Undergraduate Conference, notes that Japanese patients are taking a more active role, asking for more thorough explanations of prescribed treatments and medications.

"Lisa came to Whitman to prepare for a career in medicine," assistant professor of Japanese Ron Takemoto says. "She wanted to become a bilingual physician. So, in addition to taking courses in the sciences, she decided to learn as much as she could about Japanese language and culture. She wanted to maintain her Japanese language skills and to develop a stronger sense of Japanese culture."

It was soon obvious that Dodobara was one of the "truly exceptional students who come along every five years or so," Takemoto says. "I was impressed by her enthusiasm and her willingness to work harder than most students. She not only did everything I asked, she always came back for more."

Takemoto asked Dodobara, during her first year of studies, to help tutor other first-year students. "Her enthusiasm for her work was contagious, and I marveled at how she inspired her peers to maintain the high level of energy necessary to learn a language. She's a joy to have in the classroom."

After returning from her junior year of studies in Kyoto, Takemoto served this past year as the student resident assistant of the Japanese language house on campus.

Outside of class, Dodobara volunteered at a nearby nursing home and participated in a number of campus organizations. "On top of everything else, she was a member of Whitman's varsity swim team," Takemoto says. "In her swim events, she participated with the same degree of enthusiasm and energy that she showed in class. This season, despite her busy schedule and a back injury, Lisa maintained a strong daily training schedule."

Takemoto has no doubt that Dodobara will achieve her dream of being a physician who can "bridge the linguistic gap between Japanese patients and American hospitals and doctors. "Knowing Lisa, I am confident her dream will become a reality."

Before pursuing her medical career, however, Dodobara will return to Japan this summer to work as a coordinator of international relations for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. A handful of Whitman graduates typically go to Japan each year through the JET program to teach English at the junior high and high school levels. Dodobara is the first Whitman student, however, to be hired for one of the coordinator positions. Her appointment is to a nenewable one-year position.

Dodobara, a graduate of Seattle's Rainier Beach High School, is the daughter of Keiko and Douglas Dodobara of Seattle.

Dodobara will be joined in Japan later this summer by several of her classmates. Whitman seniors planning to work as assistant English teachers next year in the JET program are:

  • Abra Cooper, a history major and graduate of Cleveland High School, Portland, Ore.
  • Reecie Levin, an anthropology major and graduate of Davis (Calif.) High School.
  • Christine Nam, a sociology major and graduate of Davis High School, Yakima, Wash.
  • Jana Seaman, a biology major and graduate of Centennial High School, Boise, Idaho.
  • Maurice Solomon, an economics-mathematics major and graduate of Brentwood School, Los Angeles.

A sixth Whitman senior, Ashley Trout, plans to teach English at a private school in Shikoku, Japan. While this school is not affiliated with the JET program, a number of Whitman graduates have taught there, including Rose Spidell, recipient of the first Carlstrom Award. Trout is an anthropology major and graduate of Georgetown Day School, Washington, D.C.