Doctors at Hiroshima University Hospital to undergo training in disaster medicine in Fukushima

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

Hiroshima University Hospital, located in Minami Ward, Hiroshima, will launch a training program for its new doctors this spring at Minamisoma City General Hospital in Fukushima Prefecture. The program seeks to provide opportunities for the study of disaster medicine in the area that was affected by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant, a calamity triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. This is the first instance of medical institutions in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions, which includes Hiroshima Prefecture, pursuing a clinical training program in the disaster zone.

Hiroshima University Hospital will call for applicants from its group of second-year interns after obtaining the necessary medical authorization. The training will last two weeks and the participants will engage in providing such services at the hospital in Minamisoma as outpatient care and examinations for internal exposure using a whole body counter, a device able to detect internal exposure to radiation. In addition, the doctors will visit local residents at temporary housing facilities in the city and help with health management concerns.

At Hiroshima University Hospital are 40 interns who are eligible for the program. In March, a female doctor, the first from this group, is scheduled to go to the hospital in Fukushima.

Hiroshima University, along with Nagasaki University in the city of Nagasaki, concluded a partnership agreement with Fukushima Medical University, located in the city of Fukushima, in April 2011, in the aftermath of the accident at the nuclear power station. As part of the agreement, Hiroshima University Hospital has decided to conduct trainings at medical institutions in the affected area.

As a result of the earthquake, 636 people died or went missing in the city of Minamisoma. After the disaster at the nuclear power plant, parts of the city were designated “off limits” or “restricted.” Among the roughly 71,000 people who were living in Minamisoma prior to the earthquake, over 20,000 still remain outside the city. Yukio Kanazawa, director of Minamisoma City General Hospital, said, “I would like many interns to understand the reality of the affected area, which is still suffering from hardship.”

Susumu Tazuma, the director of the Postgraduate Clinical Training Center at Hiroshima University Hospital, expressed his hopes for the program, saying, “I believe that encountering the sufferers of the disaster directly will be a defining moment for these young doctors.”

(Originally published on January 10, 2013)