Healthy Smiles founder dies from flu complications

Family, friends and patients are mourning the loss of 52-year-old Wayne Kodama. The local dentist and community leader died from flu complications.
January 29, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Family, friends and patients are mourning the loss of 52-year-old Wayne Kodama. The local dentist and community leader died from flu complications.

Doctor Kodama had no underlying health conditions, he was athletic and strong and he never missed a day of work. His family is urging people to get the flu shot and to immediately see a doctor if you think you're getting sick.

For nearly 20 years the "Healthy Smiles Mobile Dental Foundation" has been a fixture at Fresno County schools, neighborhoods and health fairs. While their work is very much public the underlying heart of the operation chose to do his work from behind the scenes.

Board member David Rose said, "He would shy publicity but if you ever needed anything Wayne was always there to help you out."

Friends and family members say, for Doctor Wayne Kodama, it was simple. He saw a need and thought there was an epidemic, a huge lack of dental care across Fresno County. He worked tirelessly for years, even paid for the foundation himself to bring kids the care they weren't getting.

Board member David Rose said, "They're going to school hurting and Wayne wanted to alleviate that."

The 52 year recently came down with what he thought was a simple cold, and since he was always healthy, he didn't see a doctor and he didn't get a flu shot. He continued to work for Healthy Smiles and for his private practice. He died three weeks later.

His longtime friend and Doctor Michael Alijani said, "Surprised and shocked. Wayne was always very strong, athletic, I never thought something like this would happen to Wayne."

Dr. Alijani calls Wayne an incredible friend, the type of person everyone instantly connects with. Now, all of those friends are working to make sure Healthy Smiles continues its mission, continues showing up at schools even without their founder.

Board member David Rose said, "I see healthy smiles going on and growing from this, as a result of Wayne's dedication."

Doctor Kodoma's services are this weekend. Instead of flowers or contributions, his family is asking that the community continue to support the Healthy Smiles Mobile Dental Foundation.

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