In Memoriam: Dr. Ken Yaegaki

Dr. Ken Yaegaki, Clinical Professor at UBC Dentistry, died on November 13, 2021 after a prolonged battle with leukaemia during which he valiantly continued with his research. Ken was Professor and Head of Oral Health at Nippon Dental University (NDU) and a longtime clinical professor at UBC Dentistry. He obtained his DDS from NDU and his PhD from Kurume University School of Medicine where he also obtained qualifications in Oral Surgery. Ken was encouraged and supported in his research from his time as an undergraduate to his final works by Dr. Sen Nakahara formerly President of NDU. Ken facilitated the NDU-UBC student exchange program initiated by Dr. Nakahara and Dean George Beagrie.

Ken’s association with UBC began as a postdoctoral fellow supervised by the late Professor of Oral Biology Joe Tonzetich in 1984-85. Ken worked closely with Joe and his technician Tony Ng on the development and application of high performance chromatographic methods in particular on the assessment of Volatile Sulphur Compounds (VSC) in breath. His studies can only be described as comprehensive and ranged from the biological effects of VSC on periodontal and dental pulp stem cells to clinical studies and recommendations for the treatment of oral malodour. At UBC, Ken was the Director  of the Breath Research Lab, and Oral Malodour Clinic, a facility that attracted patients from around the world. He was prominent in a number of international scientific organizations including the International Society for Breath Odour Research, which he served as president. Sixty nine of his publications are listed in PubMed. Ken was an accomplished clinician who worked with Babak Chehoudi at SciDent clinic in North Vancouver where he demonstrated an unparalleled ability to motivate his patients to practice meticulous oral hygiene. In recent years Ken’s research centered on regenerative medicine employing dental pulp  and oral keratinocyte stem cells. He was in the process of establishing a department of tissue stem cells at Tokyo University at the time of his passing.

Predeceased by his wife Michiiyo, Ken is survived by his daughters Mika, Yuka, and their families. Ken was a loyal and generous friend. On his frequent visits to Vancouver, Ken would always visit the graves of his former coworkers Joe Tonzetich and Tony Ng. Ken had a vibrant personality and was fun to be with. He  had a sardonic sense of humour with a deadpan delivery. He will be greatly missed by his friends at UBC as well as many universities in Japan.

Written by: Drs. Donald Brunette and Babak Chehroudi