ACP Governor tapped for top advisory post in Japan
From the April ACP Observer, copyright © 2007 by the American College of Physicians.
By Stacey Butterfield
After reaching the top ranks of the medical profession, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, MACP, is moving onto new challenges in the political realm. In October, the Governor for ACP's Japan Chapter was appointed to serve as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's science advisor—the first physician to hold the prestigious post.
Dr. Kurokawa said the appointment came as a sudden and unexpected surprise. "The Prime Minister must have realized the importance of having a science advisor who is well connected to the scientific community of the nation and the world," he said.
As science advisor, Dr. Kurokawa will play a leadership role in Innovation 25, a reform plan announced in September 2006 by the newly elected Mr. Abe, who had won his post that same month.
Innovation 25 is a project focused on meeting the needs of Japanese society in 2025. Dr. Kurokawa and his colleagues are tasked with evaluating and developing research, especially in the fields of medicine, information technology and environmental science.
He comes to the job well-prepared, having just completed a term as President of the Science Council of Japan. The connections he made with scientists on the council "will be of great value" in his new position, said Dr.Kurokawa, who delivered the G8 Academies Statements at two G8 Summits during his council presidency.
Dr. Kurokawa, the driving force behind the formation of the Japan Chapter in 2002, expects that his College connections will also aid him in his new responsibilities, although he isn't always able to travel to ACP meetings.
"I feel badly about [not attending more meetings], but the Japan Chapter leadership has helped me greatly and our chapter grew very rapidly since its launch," said Dr. Kurokawa, who has served as Governor since the chapter's inception. The Japan Chapter was the first ACP chapter to be established outside of the Americas.
The concerns of internists in Japan are not so different from those in the U.S., Dr. Kurokawa said. Like their American colleagues, Japan's internists struggle with the challenges of caring for an aging population. New equipment, biotechnologies and ethical issues are always areas of interest, he added.
Globalization, especially in the form of American television shows like "ER", has also changed the Japanese public's expectations of their physicians, Dr. Kurokawa said. "Doctors used to behave like they served a person above the patients. Informed consent, second opinions were not so much talked about. Today, the people tend to ask for more."
Dr. Kurokawa is particularly qualified to bridge the gap between East and West, having practiced in the U.S. for many years. He completed a fellowship in biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to California, where he worked at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine and the University of Southern California.
"I learned a lot from my professional career in the U.S. over some 14 years. In this era of globalization, it is good to be better informed on a different culture and system, so that you can see the world from a different perspective," he said.
Dr. Kurokawa holds multiple faculty posts. He is currently professor at National Graduate Research Insititute for Policy Science and an adjunct professor at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology of the University of Tokyo.
In addition to his professional responsibilities, Dr. Kurokawa has a deep concern for his social responsibility as a physician. "We are responsible for our patients and their families. Thus, we serve the health of the community and nation and global society. We should at least consider the relevance of what we do to the global agenda," he said.
Dr. Kurokawa is currently the commissioner of the World Health Organization Commission for Social Determinants of Health. For the past two years, he has been traveling the world—including Chile, Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya and Brazil—to research models of socially conscious health care. "This has been fun, but certainly a lot of work for all of us," he said.
Sometime in early 2008, the commission will present a report with recommendations on how governments should deal with the socially determined causes of health inequities.
In the meantime, Dr. Kurokawa will continue working to improve Japanese health from the individual to the national level. "As the late Dr. John Eisenberg said, 'Globalize the evidence, localize the decision.'"
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