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Daily Yomiuri On-Line
March 27, 2000
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
At the beginning of the interview, Akira Sugenoya said with a smile: "I haven't done anything extraordinarily good that is worth mentioning."
Sugenoya, 56, a physician, has been offering his medical services for free for more than four years in Belarus, where a large number of children are suffering thyroid cancer resulting from the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
Sugenoya is one of 17 health-care professionals to have recently received awards sponsored by The Yomiuri Shimbun for their dedication in offering medical services at home and abroad.
Before visiting Belarus, which lies to the north of Ukraine, Sugenoya was thinking about utilizing his expertise in thyroid medicine obtained through his work as an associate professor at Shinshu University in Nagano Prefecture.
After watching a television news report on the expected increase in thyroid cancer in Belarus, Sugenoya made his first trip to the country in 1991.
"I was shocked when I saw the surgical scars left on children that would have been much smaller if the surgery had been carried out in Japan," he said.
"If the children were Japanese, they would have access to the latest surgical techniques. Medical developments should benefit everyone, " he added.
Sugenoya said, "Physicians in Belarus are very capable, but they do not have access to the latest medical information."
Sugenoya moved to Minsk to provide long-term medical support, such as educating local physicians about the latest medical developments and providing local doctors with medical supplies, in January 1996. He has been working at the National Thyroid Cancer Center where he has performed surgery about 550 times.
Sugenoya receives no payment for his work in Belarus, and uses his retirement allowance from Shinshu University to fund his activities. Sugenoya said, "If I received monetary donations from others, I would have been expected to show concrete results and consequently, I would have been too eager for success."
In July 1999, he moved to Gomel, which is about 300 kilometers southeast of Minsk, and closer to Chernobyl. Sugenoya said that the thyroid cancer patients in Gomel previously had to travel to Minsk for medical treatment, a trip that was quite burdensome for them.
Sugenoya is currently in Japan, though in April he will return to Gomel, where a large number of patients await his kindness and medical attention.