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Posted on Feb 10, 2020 in Latest Department News

(Honolulu, HI February 9, 2020) A medical doctor from Japan is learning how to improve his lifesaving skills at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) medical school this month in a cultural exchange program borne out of the Ehime Maru tragedy 19 years ago today.  He is also among those mourning the loss of the fishing boat in ceremonies at the Ehime Maru memorial at Kakaʻako Waterfront Park today.

The young doctor was only eight years old when the USS Greeneville, an American Navy submarine, surfaced unexpectedly in Hawaiʻi waters, toppling and sinking the Ehime Maru, a fishing boat from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Japan that was training high schoolers interested in becoming commercial fishers. Nine Japanese, both students and teachers died.

One of the dead was the father of Dr. Yusuke Tominaga’s friend.  Tominaga is among a group of young MDs visiting UH this month in the first medical cultural exchange connected to the “sister city” friendship program created between Honolulu and Uwajima after the sinking of the Ehime Maru.

“The accident affected my life so much,” Dr. Tominaga said through an interpreter at the medical school after classes on Thursday. “Having seen the accident I felt life, human life is so important. That became one of the key reasons I became a doctor to save the lives of the people.”

Dr. Tominaga and the other young doctors from Uwajima City Hospital have been taking hands-on classes in the patient simulation laboratory at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. It provides intensive, emergency room-style practice with both human patient volunteers and high-fidelity patient simulators. It is an intensive method of training based on different from the way Japanese doctors are taught – and something they find valuable.

“(This provides) more reality than Japanese situation, so we are very nervous, nervous, nervous and good for study, reality,” said Dr. Keisuke Funaki, also training with Uwajima City Hospital.

The doctors are experiencing how to cope with patients experiencing shock, trauma and heart attack, among other emergencies.  They do not usually train in teams, so that is another part of the American medical school training they say they find fascinating.

Their studies include lectures in addition to laboratory work.  The visiting Japanese medical doctors also toured the medical school’s Hyperbaric Treatment Center, which treats victims of ocean accidents.  The Uwajima City Hospital Program Director, Japanese Cardiologist AkiyoshiOgimoto, hopes the medical cultural exchange will continue and even expand.

“I would like to expand this relationship to other professional people, American, not only doctors but nurses and other professions,” said Dr. Akiyoshi Ogimoto, the Uwajima City Hospital Chief of Cardiology leading the student group from Uwajima City, the former home port of the Ehime Maru.