Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Herbert Hau

For more than 35 years, Dr. Herbert Hau has been cheerfully, quietly serving the community he loves.

Dr. Herbert Hau (Credit: Kelvin Ma for Tufts University)

“I like working here, in Chinatown,” Dr. Hau says, smiling. “I like being involved in what’s happening in the community.”

Dr. Herbert Hau, Associate Clinical Professor and volunteer faculty member in the Department of Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry, has been a faculty member with Tufts for 35 years. Recently honored with other faculty members at the Faculty Recognition Luncheon on August 8, he said he’s used his work at TUSDM to give back and be involved in Chinatown community affairs.

In addition to his work at TUSDM, Dr. Hau had a successful practice in Chinatown from 1982 to 2012, and is a board member of the Quincy School Community Council. He has also been a NERB examiner since 2003, a position which involves traveling to dental schools like The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry and, his favorite, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry.

Why Detroit?

“The city needs some lifting,” he said. “I like the school, the other examiners who go there. People need to know that there is still good happening there. I won’t fly anywhere far away, except for Detroit.”

It seems like wherever Dr. Hau goes, he’s concerned with the places, and the people, who are often overlooked. When he first came to Tufts, for example, there were no translators on staff to assist with Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants who came to the clinic knowing little or no English (the clinics now offers translation services for patients). As one of only half a dozen or so Asians in the entire school at the time, he was often called upon to translate.

“Imagine, no translators, for a clinic in the middle of Chinatown!” he said. “They had to announce over the intercom that someone who spoke Chinese, or Japanese or Korean was needed in the clinic. I became a sort of liaison between the school and the community.”

Dr. Hau was born and raised in Hong Kong, later coming to the United States to study at Kansas State University. He graduated in 1965 with an M.S. in chemistry, then went on to receive a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Boston University in 1970 and a D.M.D. from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 1977. Before coming to TUSDM, he was dentist with South Cove Community Health Center in Chinatown.

“The dental school makes me a partner who’s involved in both worlds: the school and the outside community,” Dr. Hau said.

Dr. Hau shares his love of grassroots community work with his wife, Frances, a licensed social worker who works for the state specializing in home visits to those recently diagnosed as legally blind, to ensure they have the resources they need to adapt to their disability. She also works with the Asian Community Development Corporation, a non-profit that works to preserve and revitalize Chinatown.

Their son, Jackson Hau, has also gotten into the family business. He took a year off from his studies at the New England School of Law to join the military, and is stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., awaiting deployment to Africa for ten months. His unit is trained to go to impoverished locations and run diagnostics on that location’s infrastructure needs – schools, roads, clean water supply, etc. Just like his parents, Captain Jackson Hau builds resources for communities, the ones he servers are just farther away.

“We’re very proud of him,” Dr. Hau said. “But we’re scared for him too. We didn’t want him to go. When I asked him why he wanted to go, he said, ‘Dad, you see those ads for the Army on TV? There’s a white guy, there’s an African-American guy, there’s a Hispanic guy. There are no Asian guys! I want to show them that Asians fight for our country too.’”