During the summer of 2012, three students from Columbia University participated in this program at FMU. They spent the first two days attending seminars on the basics of radiation biology, the history of past nuclear disasters and the current situation in Fukushima. They learned how to examine the thyroid gland with an ultrasound, perform disaster triage, and respond to a radiation injury case using a manikin. Then they spent three days visiting key regions and interacting with individuals who were directly affected by the disaster. At the kokoro no care mental health outreach center for elderly residents, they measured blood pressure, sang a song, and talked to residents about their experiences living in temporary housing. While volunteering at a community center for families living in temporary housing, they observed worried mothers consulting physicians about the radiation levels in parks and the safety of Fukushima produce. They also visited the base camp for the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup and learned about the measures taken to clean the site and decommission the nuclear power plants, which could take decades to complete. Lastly, they visited a region destroyed by the tsunami and met a father who was building a playground in honor of the son he had lost. This program gave them a much deeper understanding of the human scale of the disaster and the need to continue supporting these regions.
Alisa Prager (Duke University Class of 2008, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Class of 2016)
Alisa Prager was born in Tokyo and attended international schools in both England and Japan. At Duke University she double majored in Biology and International Comparative Studies and minored in Mandarin Chinese. As a medical student she has been an active member of the Consortium for Japan Relief and helped found the Nishimiya Fellows Program. She is also the student representative for the Japanese Medical Society of America.
Evan Rausch (Northwestern University Class of 2010, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Class of 2015)
Evan Rausch is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he first started studying Japanese in junior high school. Learning the language led to a longstanding interest in Japan, and he has traveled there for multiple student exchanges and even worked in Tokyo as a tour guide. After graduating from Northwestern University, Evan started medical school at Columbia, and was honored to take part in the inaugural Nishiyama Fellows Program. While previous trips to Japan had been mostly fun and travel, on this trip it was humbling to learn about the devastation of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown and inspiring to see the ways that Japan banded together and persevered through the disaster. He hopes to continue working with similar relief efforts in his future as a physician.
Kirsten Homma (Dartmouth University Class of 2011, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Class of 2016)
Kirsten Homma is from NY. She is currently a research assistant at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University. She is also the president of Consortium for Japan Relief and has organized several on-campus symposia focusing on the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. She plans to study public health at the Mailman School of Public Health in the fall.