FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

Special InterviewTragedy to TriumphFUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Line153Shin-ichi KikuchiPresident and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Fukushima Medical UniversityTragedy to TriumphSpecial InterviewOn March 11, 2011, the three northeastern Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate were struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented magnitude. In addition to this natural disaster, the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture suffered a series of explosions that caused radioactive contamination throughout the area. After the catastrophe, Fukushima Medical University (FMU) worked day and night to provide relief services to the injured and radiation casualties. At present, the university continues to support the recovery efforts of Fukushima residents. Following the calamity and nuclear accident, the publication “FUKUSHIMSA: Lives on the Line” has chronicled the actions of FMU. In a special interview, President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Shin-ichi Kikuchi explains the philosophy of “Fukushima: Hope in the midst of adversity” and stresses the importance of maintaining an accurate record for future generations. Moreover, while voicing diverse, concrete policy ideas, the president makes an impassioned argument for calling on the “autonomous strength of Fukushima.” He believes this is crucial in winning the battle for protecting the health of Fukushima’s residents in the next 50–100 years.�(Interviewer: Yumi Takada)Kikuchi: Exactly. We were faced with the challenge of organizing the intake of a diverse mass of patients. However, in the midst of the chaos, we managed to categorize the incoming patients and make the necessary decisions, such as “this dialysis patient needs to go to Tokyo, which still has continuous water supply,” “this patient needs surgery immediately,” and “this patient can be treated at the evacuation shelter.” The most important aspect during this process was that, as a prefectural institution, FMU did not suffer from any information gap or time lag in communication with the emergency response headquarters, with whom we were able to work hand in hand. However, this would not have been the case if FMU were a national university. I believe the point that needs to be communicated to posterity is that this was possible because of the like-minded approach of the university and the prefecture. We were completely on the same page.——This capacity and framework must be handed down, correct?Kikuchi: Definitely. This is also the case for having double electrical and water supply lines. In our case, we did not have food or water supply for quite a while, and gasoline lines were shut off. Unlike the National Self-Defense Forces, we were not self-sufficient; just as we offered support to patients, we needed someone to provide us with aid. If the stoppage of the water supply had lasted for the second week, we probably would have had to pull out of the hospital. However, we were able to unite and sustain ourselves with the generous assistance from several directions.The Prefecture’s Public Health Survey——Frankly speaking, most households had negative opinions about the surveys handed out after the disaster. Everyone’s memory of the aftermath of the disaster was scattered and some complained that the survey questions were needlessly meticulous. Were these surveys really necessary?Kikuchi: Certainly there has been criticism to the