School of Medicine honors long-time basic medical science professor

School of Medicine Dean Betty Drees, M.D., recognized retiring associate professor of basic medical science Bob Yang, Ph.D., during a reception on Dec. 2. For more photos from the reception, visit our Facebook page.

As an instructor of biochemistry, Bob Yang, Ph.D., has one guiding factor about the classes he has taught at the School of Medicine.

“I was always mindful of the connection of biochemistry to medicine and always thought that it was important it be made obvious to the students,” Yang said.

Yang has spent 36 years at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the last 14 of those in the School of Medicine’s Department of Basic Medical Science, making biochemistry relevant to his students.

The School of Medicine recognized Yang for his service as associate professor of basic medical science during a reception on Dec. 2 in the Humanities Conference Room.

Yang officially retired and stepped down from his tenured teaching position this past August. But through the University’s Olson Professorship Program, which gives retiring senior faculty a named professorship position to continue teaching on a limited basis, Yang will keep teaching students the important links between biochemistry and medicine until the end of the academic year.

“From the very beginning, I have invited clinicians to come in and give guest lectures. I have eight to 10 clinicians do brief presentations on topics related to biochemistry and the students have always told me they like those presentations,” Yang said.

Yang began his college career at the University of California studying botany before changing his focus to biochemistry.

“I was always interested in studying living things, ever since I was a child,” he said. “But once I transferred to biochemistry during the first part of my undergraduate years, I never looked back. I enjoyed teaching and research in the field of biochemistry.”

He earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Iowa State University and returned to California to do post-doctoral work at the University of California-Berkley. Two years later, he began his teaching career in the Department of Chemistry at UMKC.

“Aside from a custodial position and a work-study job, teaching at UMKC has been my only job,” Yang said. “I think teaching and motivating students has been the most rewarding aspect of the job. I find it valuable and thrilling to see students get excited about biochemistry. Not just to earn a good grade, but to get really interested in the subject.”

Aside from the students and teaching, Yang said the camaraderie and friendships he has developed throughout 36 years at UMKC will be missed the most.

“It’s the people, my colleagues, the friends who I have gotten to know so well over the years, speaking with them each day.” Yang said. “These are friendships that have been built over the years, and I’ll always cherish these friendships.”

Yang said he plans to remain in the Kansas City area after he fully retires from teaching. But he likely won’t be sitting in any one place for long.

“My wife and I plan to do some travelling, both domestic and foreign,” he said. “We want to do some camping in national parks and plan to drive to Alaska in the next year. Maybe we’ll go to Taiwan (where he was born) and some other countries. I want to do these things before I have to use a cane or a walker to get around.”

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