Worked as a thyroid surgeon treating victims of radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear accident
Born: 1943; from: Nagano Prefecture, Japan
He relinquished his job as an assistant professor of Shinshu University School of Medicine in 1996 to take up a new post in Belarus, leaving his family in Japan. As a thyroid surgeon, he became involved in the treatment of victims of the Chernobyl disaster who were suffering as a result of having being exposed to radiation for over five years. He continued this work until he returned to Japan in 2001. He had to conduct his work while contending with many obstacles and difficulties presented by the language barrier, but he nevertheless held a daily clinic and performed as many as 750 operations while at the same time introducing new medical technologies to local young doctors. He will continue his support of the victims of the accident and promote an educational campaign through the Japan Chernobyl Medical Fund for which he is a representative.
Reasons for this award
Since the nuclear plant accident in 1986, he often visited the area to engage in medical volunteer activities. He decided to move there even though he was over 50, unable to ignore people who were suffering in a country with limited medical resources. During his tenure, he overcame various difficulties including his own suffering from gastric ulcer, and pursued his vocation as a doctor. We would like to present this award to him, expressing our admiration for his tireless and selfless efforts.
Comments from the winner
I feel extremely honored to receive this award. I greatly appreciate your having interest in the Chernobyl disaster and the recognition you have given me for my activities in treating those who were affected. It’s been 15 years since the accident occurred in 1986, and memories about it seem to be fading. However, more than 20 groups still continue their activities to support the victims of the accident. This award, I suppose, will be a great encouragement to my colleagues in their activities. I now work at the Nagano prefectural office, but intend to continue my involvement in Chernobyl issues. Thank you very much.
“Akira Sugenoya is the mayor of Matsumoto City in Nagano but he’s also a respected thyroid surgeon who spent five years treating children in Ukraine and Belarus who developed thyroid cancer after the Chernobyl disaster.
(Sound of Akira Sugenoya speaking in Japanese).
“When I look at Fukushima now the number of thyroid cancer cases in kids is quite high,” says Dr Sugenoya. “The doctors in Fukushima say that it shouldn’t be emerging this fast, so they say it’s not related to the accident. But that’s very unscientific, and it’s not a reason that we can accept,” he says.”
ABC Australia, Mark Willacy, `Japan, Nov 5 2013.