Published: March 1, 2013 By

Toshiko Luckow

Toshiko Luckow’s (MTeleComm’87, MD’10) motto for life came from a professor.

“You can do everything you want to do — you just can’t do it all at once,” she recalls him saying. “So, voilà! That has been my motto.”

When she graduated in 2010, Toshiko was one of the oldest students to earn a medical degree in the history of the University of Colorado. At 53, an age when most professionals are beginning their last decade in the workforce, she began her family medicine residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin, St. Joseph Hospital in Milwaukee.

Toshiko, who was raised in Japan, came to the United States at age 15 as a foreign exchange student. Her English vocabulary consisted of the words “yes,” “no” and “thank you.”

After college Toshiko pursued a career in education, attending CU-Boulder for a teaching certificate in English as a Second Language. She also earned a master’s degree in telecommunications.

When she and her husband, who also is fluent in Japanese, moved to Tokyo, she landed a job downtown at AT&T working as a systems engineer. The couple moved back to the U.S. just as the telecom industry was contracting and launched a successful Japanese technical translation business in Boulder.

“I can confidently say that I have always taken actions that are true to my dreams, and they have led me to challenging and successful careers, volunteer activities and my family,” she says. “At the same time, though, I have always had a feeling that something was not quite complete.”

When she turned 40, she finally acknowledged her deeply rooted desire to become a medical doctor. Both her father and grandfather were doctors, but the cultural norms in Japan when she was a child didn’t encourage girls to become doctors. The dream lay dormant for decades.

Although she will have significant debt from medical school, that doesn’t deter her.

“I will have to work for a long time, or I’ll have to drop dead and have the loan forgiven,” she says.

Odds are, she’s got a long career ahead of her. Toshiko’s father, an internist with a doctorate, just retired last year at age 84.

Toshiko’s commitment to her dreams already has inspired others. Last year, her 54-year-old husband, Mike Luckow (DistSt’84), whom she met at CU-Boulder, became the oldest student to begin medical school at CU. When Toshiko finishes her residency in Wisconsin, she hopes to return to Colorado.