Born in Hanapepe, Kauai, Dr. Sau Yee Chang (1896-1990) attended Mid-Pacific Institute in Honolulu and graduated from Northwestern University Dental School in 1918. He practiced dentistry in Chicago for about a year — at the beginning of what would become a 47-year career as a dentist.
Dr. Chang returned to Hawaii in 1919 to continue his practice in Honolulu. In 1920 Chang was appointed as the resident government dentist on Kauai in charge of all dental work required by school children in all schools on Kauai, except Lihue, while also engaging in private practice at Kapaa.
By accepting his appointment, he became one of Kauai’s first resident dentists.
Kauai’s first resident dentist, Dr. A. J. Darby, had been recruited out of Honolulu only five years earlier, in 1915, by Albert Herbert Waterhouse MD, and was provided with a brand new office building in Lihue comprised of a veranda, waiting room, two operating rooms and a laboratory, as well as a roomy residence cottage in Lihue.
Previously, dental work on Kauai had been performed by dentists visiting from Honolulu.
In 1922, Dr. Chang became the first person of Chinese ancestry to run for public office on Kauai in a bid for a seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
Although he failed to be elected that year, he won election ten years later and served two terms on the board.
While serving on the Board of Supervisors, Dr. Chang made the front page of The Garden Island newspaper following a confrontation between himself and fellow board member Mr. John B. Fernandes, during a February 7, 1934, board meeting in which Chang called Fernandes a liar, prompting Fernandes to shout, “You can’t call me a liar!” while rushing around the table to take several wild swings at Chang, one of which landed.
Yet their conflict was short-lived; Dr. Chang and Mr. Fernandes soon after shook hands and went to lunch together.
Kauai dentist Dr. Sau Yee Chang and his wife, Dorothy Chock Chang had four children: Katherine, Kathleen, Dorothy and Thomas Chang.