Missing His Son on Father’s Day

Dr. William K. K. Lau and his son Dr. William “Travis” Lau had much in common. Not only did they share first names, as doctors, they shared a profession and passion for innovation and for new technologies to help patients. They shared a love of sports and athletics. They both followed their dreams of studying medicine at prominent universities on the East Coast and then returned home to Hawaii for their families. 

Sadly, however, now Dr. Lau only has memories of Travis. The shared experiences with his son were stolen and Father’s Day is especially hard.

On January 28, 2019, Travis was killed by a drunk driver while waiting for the traffic light to change on Ala Moana Boulevard. He was 39.

“Especially now we miss him,” Dr. Lau says of Travis. “I was hoping to do more with Travis, not only on his (professional) level because he was a doctor and because he had an invention and we were working on that. My father, Hing Chock, started taking me salmon fishing in Alaska every year. Now I just miss Travis and the opportunity to get Travis to go fishing with me, too.”

 Father’s Day stirs feelings and reminders of missed family experiences stolen because of a tragedy and due to a deadly incident that could have been prevented had the driver not been under the influence. 

 “We just enjoyed doing things together,” Dr. Lau remembers. “He was on little league teams and we went on picnics, to the beach and having barbecues, and being together as a family.”

 To honor Travis’s legacy, the Laus established a scholarship at Travis’s high school alma mater ‘Iolani School. And at UH Foundation, the Laus created a fund for medical students who are interested in anesthesiology because Travis was an anesthesiologist. 

“For the families who have lost somebody, you can’t bring back their loved one,” says Dr. Lau who encourages families to try to carry on with their loved one’s goals and ideas as a small source of comfort. He, his wife Esther, and Travis’s widow Melissa Lau are also involved with MADD Hawaii, and value that MADD works to spread the message of the dangers of drinking and driving, while also making efforts on the legislative front to improve the safety of the community. 

Dr. William Lau attended University Lab School and went on to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. He completed his medical internship, residency and fellowship in infectious diseases at UCLA before returning to Hawaii to start his private practice and to start his own family. Dr. Lau retired from private practice about four years ago.

Dr. Travis Lau, after completing both medical school and residency at Tufts, continued his training as a cardiothoracic anesthesiology fellow at The Cleveland Clinic. In 2011, he returned to Hawaii to join Pacific Anesthesiology Services and served on numerous quality committees. He was a trailblazer, setting national standards for blood usage in open heart surgery and advocating for patient safety-first policies. 

Dr. Travis Lau, 8/17/79 - 1/28/19
Dr. Travis Lau 8/17/79 - 1/28/19