UCSF Leaders Join Visiting Japanese Scholars in Remembrance

By Juliana Bunim on May 16, 2011

Japanese students and scholars joined UCSF leaders, including Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy, right, at UCSF Mission Bay for an evening of remembrance of those affected by the crisis in Japan in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

On the two-month anniversary of the massive earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan, UCSF campus leaders joined visiting Japanese scholars and students to strengthen ties and find out what else the University can do to support recovery efforts.

Japanese make up one of the largest international groups at UCSF, with about 100 visiting students and scholars.

Kazuho Sakamoto, PhD, is a visiting professor from Fukushima Medical University, where he is a senior assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and School of Medicine. Sakamoto was in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake, but his thoughts were at his home university, which is in close proximity to the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant where explosions caused Japan’s worst-ever nuclear disaster. He plans to return to Japan to visit, but his pregnant wife can’t go to Fukushima Prefecture because of radiation risks.

Sakamoto is just one of approximately 30 visiting students and postdoctoral scholars who attended the Mission Bay event on May 11, the latest effort in UCSF’s ongoing commitment to helping those affected by the tragedies in Japan. UCSF has also produced a series of videos offering the expertise of UCSF faculty to address mental stress and other health-related issues that are taking a toll on the people of Japan.

“We’re here to remember the event of two months ago and acknowledge the impact it had on so many lives in Japan and in the US, including many of our students and scholars,” said Joseph Castro, PhD, vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs. “We want to bring our visiting Japanese students together to show support and strengthen the connections between them, faculty and staff.”

Kazuho Sakamoto, left, a visiting assistant professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy, and his wife, Qiaohui Yang, talk with Joe Castro, vice chancellor for Student Academic Affairs, at an event to show support to UCSF's Japanese students and scholars.

The Japanese students and scholars mingled, casually speaking in their native Japanese and getting to know UCSF faculty including Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD, dean of the School of Pharmacy; Don Kishi, PharmD, associate dean of the School of Pharmacy; Jeff Kilmer, director of Education Technology Services in Student Academic Affairs; Christine Des Jarlais, EdD, assistant dean, Postdoc Affairs and Graduate Outreach; and Karen Butter, University Librarian and assistant vice chancellor.

In addition to strengthening relationships between Japanese visiting scholars, a priority of the casual event was to elicit feedback as to other ways the University can help Japan. Scholars wrote answers to several questions either in English or Japanese, that asked for specific health-related universities or hospitals that might be interested in building an ongoing relationship with UCSF, and possibly Japan-based charities that need assistance.

“We would like to think of a longterm contribution and making a direct impact,” said Carrie Steere-Salazar, interim director of the International Students & Scholars office. “Maybe it’s a lab or a school, or bringing a scholar over to finish research they couldn’t complete in Japan because of the devestation. But we have no preconceived notions, we want to hear what the scholars and students have to say.”

“UCSF’s mission is to advance health worldwide,” said Castro. “And here tonight, we represent that mission.”

Photos by Susan Merrell