Why genome research in the disaster area? I am sometimes asked this question. My response to such questions is an extremely simple and realistic one-"Because I would like the Tohoku people to enjoy the next generation most advanced medicine for the first time in the world. In addition, I believe that it is necessary for the people of Tohoku to 'make a living.'" Carrying out a long-term health study of the people in the disaster-afflicted area and dispatching physicians alone should be significant assistance. However, in order to create employment over the long-term and for Tohoku, especially the disaster-afflicted area, to become self-sustaining, we must build the foundations to these ends. In addition, to attract people and companies from all areas of Japan to Tohoku, it is essential that we restore social capital which was hit by the disaster, and to turn the "Tohoku" brand image, which was hurt by the disaster, into an attractive one. The genome research and industry hubs will no doubt serve as a major infrastructure for these ends.
Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Tohoku region has received an outpouring of support from all corners of Japan as well as from all over the world. We were truly grateful. I would like to take this opportunity to once again express our gratitude. Without this wide-ranging support, we could not have even sustained Tohoku over these last three years. That said, we cannot continue to receive assistance forever. We, Tohoku people, including those who bore the brunt of the disaster, must work, get our lives back on track, and build a new society ourselves. We have to become self-reliant.
I believe that society can be rehabilitated for the first time after medical services and education are secured. To secure medical services, we will dispatch physicians to the coastal areas, which suffered the calamity, and carry out a long-term health study of the communities. And as a university in the disaster area, Tohoku University will provide education. We will provide "medicine & education," so that people can raise their children with ease of mind, live together with their grandfathers and grandmothers with a sense of relief, and work with peace of mind. Moreover, universities are not merely research and educational institutions, but are also stations for communicating the finishing point of the local people's cultures and civilizations to the world. As a "ToMMo" ("ToMMo," which sounds like "tomo," means "friend" in Japanese) that walks side by side with the affected people, we will communicate to the world the appeals of Tohoku's culture as well as the good intentions and ambitions that the people in Tohoku have towards its reconstruction.
Tohoku University, as a university in the disaster area, is determined to form a "scrum" with and work ceaselessly with the people in the disaster area. I am convinced that ToMMo taking responsibility for the health and genetic information of the people in the disaster area is a clear example of this determination and resolve.
(December 25, 2013. At the Office of the Executive Director, ToMMo, Tohoku University)
Masayuki Yamamoto M.D., Ph.D.
Executive Director, Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization (ToMMo), Tohoku University
A professor at Graduate School of Medicine, Tohoku University. After the graduation from the Tohoku University, he researched biochemistry at Northwestern University and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, U.S.A. He has shown strong leadership as Vice President of Tohoku University from 2008 to 2011 and as Dean of the School of Medicine, Tohoku University from 2008 to 2012. He received the Medal with Purple Ribbon from the Emperor of Japan in 2012 for his support in local medical services after 3.11.
This interview was originally conducted in Japanese for the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization public magazine "phrase" Vol.1.