July 31, 2020

My Professional Life and a Series of Disasters

By Shigeru Ehara, MD

Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself to the readers of the SRS eNews.

I had been chair of the radiology department in Morioka, Japan, for 17 years, and stepped down from this position in April 2019 at the forced retirement age of 65, following the common employment rule in Japan that most department chairs of medical schools are supposed to step down at this age (older than other staff members who retire at the age of 60). I was fortunate enough to continue my clinical and educational work at a newly established medical school in Sendai.

During my professional life, in 2011, I experienced a chain of disasters, starting with a mega-earthquake, a huge tsunami and a nuclear power plant accident, which fortunately, I survived. But the disaster of 2020 is different, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although hospitals and medical systems in our region function in an ordinary way, both our family and professional lives have been seriously affected, especially if the virus continues to spread. Most media reports are filled with the news stating how many people have contracted this virus, how many people died in the world and in each region in Japan, and ways we might survive this disaster. Since mid-February, most social and academic events have been cancelled or postponed, and we can hardly expect when our ordinary life will return.

The modern medical system in Japan was established in the mid-19th century by the pioneers of bacteriology and public health in order to cope with the plague, cholera and malaria epidemics in East Asia. As practitioners of modern medicine, we now wonder how we can handle this disaster wisely. However, we may still be far from an answer.