FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

214*Ryuki Kassai was born in Niigata Prefecture in 1957. He graduated from Hokkaido University in 1984 and later studied pediatrics at the same university. In 1990, he became a resident in family medicine at the University of British Columbia in Canada. In 1996, he became the director of the Caress Alliance’s Hokkaido Center for Family Medicine. In 2006, he became a Professor of Community and Family Medicine at Fukushima Medical University and has served in his current position since 2010.Studying in Canada in His Thirties under Dr. Ian McWhinney, the “Father of Family Medicine.”Ever since I set my sights on medical school, I knew I wanted to become a family doctor because I felt that it was prototypical. Thus, for two years starting in 1990, I studied at the University of British Columbia in Canada and underwent training as a resident in family medicine.During my training, I was able to freely choose some electives. Impressed by the concept and practice of “patient-centered medicine” discussed in A Textbook of Family Medicine, I definitely wanted to study with Dr. Ian McWhinney, the book’s author, and creator of the University of Western Ontario’s family medicine program. Therefore, I asked my academic advisor to write him a letter.A little while later, I received a reply from Dr. McWhinney, simply saying, “Come here, I’ll be waiting.” So, I left immediately. I remember that my plane was delayed and landed in the middle of the night, but Dr. McWhinney was waiting for me at the bus terminal, and he drove me to his home.For the following month, we would spend two or three hours together every day, Monday through Friday, reading and discussing his book. On the weekends, we would continue the discussion at his home over meals cooked by his wife. Initially, we had planned these personal lessons for only the first two weeks. However, while I was there, Dr. McWhinney’s father-in-law passed away. He had to cancel his business trip to Taiwan, and I could study this way for a full month. There are scholars and pupils all over the world, but surely no other pupil before or after me has been able to learn so intensely. Dr. McWhinney suggested that I should create a system to support family medicine in Japan if we did not have any, so I returned to Japan in 1992, confident that this was exactly what I should do.With a Growing Desire to Enter into the Community to Practice and Teach Medicine, Dr. Kassai Helped Establish the Hokkaido Center for Family Medicine in 1996.On returning to Japan, I enrolled in the Department of General Medicine at Kawasaki Medical School, but I could not actively participate in the community while at a university hospital. While I was hoping to join the community and practice family medicine, I was invited by Akio Nishimura, then Director of the Caress Alliance Medical Corporation that ran the Nikko Memorial Hospital in Muroran, Hokkaido. Thus, 15 years ago, we created the Hokkaido Center for Family Medicine under Practicing World-Class Family Medicine in FukushimaStruggling to Recover from the Great DisasterRyuki Kassai*Professor and Chair, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Fukushima Medical UniversityNikkei Medical 8/2011 “Portrait of a Hero”The type of physician that Dr. Ryuki Kassai wanted to become was a family doctor. He learned family medicine while studying abroad in Canada and practiced it in Hokkaido, and later in Fukushima. After the disaster, he visited the evacuation zone 30 km around the nuclear power plant, providing support that was rooted in the community.