UH Med Now

First medical exchange brings doctors from Ehime Prefecture to JABSOM to study, collaborate, and remember the 2001 sinking of the Ehime Maru

Date: February 9th, 2020 in Collaboration, Community Outreach, IN THE NEWS, JABSOM News, MD Residents    Print or PDF

Drs. Yuki Hamamatsu, Keiko Tange and other visiting Japanese residents learn in the JABSOM SimTiki with Dr. Benjamin Berg (red) and Dr. Satoshi Jujo (lying down). Deborah Manog Dimaya photos.

Pictured: Drs. Yuki Hamamatsu, Keiko Tange and other visiting Japanese physicians learn in the JABSOM SimTiki laboratory with Dr. Benjamin Berg (wearing red) and Dr. Satoshi Jujo (lying down). Deborah Manog Dimaya photos.

Tragedy off Kakaako inspired one of the young doctors, then 8 years old, to become a healer

By Tina Shelton and Deborah Manog Dimaya, UH Med Now

(Honolulu, HI February 9, 2020) A medical doctor from Japan is learning how to improve his lifesaving skills at the University of Hawaii (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 Kakaako Waterfront Park today.

The young doctor was only eight years old when the USS Greeneville, an American Navy submarine, surfaced unexpectedly in Hawaii 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.”

Drs. Keisuke Funaki, Yuki Hamamatsu, Yusuke Tominaga, Daiki Ishimura, Keiko Tange and Dr. Akiyoshi Ogimoto, Uwajima City Hospital Chief of Cardiology.

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 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 learning 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 Akiyoshi Ogimoto, 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.


MDs from Uwajima City Hospital with Lei at Ehime Memorial 2020 TShelton photo

Physicians from Uwajima City Hospital with lei at the Ehime Memorial. Dr. Tominaga is at left. Tina Shelton photos.

On Sunday, February 9, the young doctors brought flower lei to the Ehime Maru Memorial at Kakaako Waterfront Park, joining families of those killed in the boat’s sinking 19 years ago in a formal ceremony. One by one, the physicians, including Dr. Yusuke Tominaga, stepped forward, placed their flowers on the chains surrounding the boat’s anchor at the memorial, then bowed in reverence.

The Ehime Memorial at Kakaako TShelton photo

The Ehime Memorial at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, just steps away from the UH medical school.

A wreath presented by the UH medical school at the Ehime Maru Memorial on February 9, 2020.

Survivors of those lost in the Ehime Maru disaster place flowers at the memorial.

More Photos from the Ehime Maru Memorial Service:
Ehime Maru Ceremony 2020

More photos of the doctors at SimTiki and Hyperbaric Treatment Center:
Japanese MD residents from Uwajima

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