FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

280Fukushima: Hope in the Midst of AdversityBearing a Historic Mission and Global ResponsibilityShin-ichi Kikuchi, President and Chair, Fukushima Medical UniversityShun-ichi Yamashita, Vice President, Fukushima Medical UniversityKenji Kamiya, Vice President, Fukushima Medical UniversityFukushima Medical University Prospectus 2012: “Three-Way Conversation”Response to the Disaster and Nuclear AccidentFukushima Medical University’s Mission and RoleKikuchi: The nuclear accident was a lamentable incident. Nevertheless, I believe that we must now build on this experience and move forward.At present, the most important aspect is how Fukushima’s residents and Fukushima Medical University’s (FMU) faculty and students will face their new historic mission. We can treat it as our fate and a resource that we can pass on to future generations. This is the role that we and FMU and we must fulfill.What are your thoughts about the disaster and nuclear accident?Yamashita: I received a phone call from President Kikuchi on the night of March 17. I was invited to Fukushima to address questions about facing the disaster and nuclear accident as medical professionals, and the contributions that people from Hiroshima and Nagasaki could make during this national crisis.My first thought was about how FMU plays such a significant role that if the university were to be destroyed, so would the whole prefecture. Right when we thought that we had finally passed the early stages of disaster response, and moved from the supercritical to the critical phase, we were confronted with the nuclear accident. Everybody gave their all amid the soul-crushing realities of the disaster’s consequences, such as the difficulty in securing water for medical treatments. It was an incredible experience that included moments of joy and sorrow. Keeping aside the Hiroshima and Nagasaki experience, I felt both immense fulfillment and responsibility as a physician with knowledge of radiation exposure who was welcomed to work alongside and support those in Fukushima.Second was my thoughts on the anxiety, anger, and not to mention the distrust of the prefecture’s residents, who were unjustly subjected to this useless and futile radiation—I would always think of ways to make use of our knowledge to resolve these problems.First, we had to protect Fukushima’s children, followed by the pregnant women. Moreover, given the importance of early-stage risk communication, we wanted to immediately start health management programs. We began preparations in May of last year, and finally, in mid-June, we launched the Prefectural Health Management Survey. In July, I moved to FMU guided by the encouraging words of President Kikuchi to “go and work so hard as though your bones would break. I will pick up the pieces of your bones.”Kamiya: Twentieth-century Japan experienced the catastrophic tragedies of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Unfortunately, at the start of the 21st century, Japan was once again struck with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident; an incident that overwhelms us with shame. Fukushima residents through no fault of their own are exposed to radiation, have developed health concerns, and are at the risk of suffering long-term health impairments. As Vice Presidents Shun-ichi Yamashita and Kenji Kamiya are experts in radiation medicine. They had been involved in the research and care of those exposed to radiation for years while at Nagasaki University and Hiroshima University, respectively. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in April 2011, our university invited both doctors as special faculty. Subsequently, on July 15, both assumed the position of Vice President.