“I want to help people not only in Japan but all over the world!”
There are many women who think this way and are making contributions overseas. Below we introduce some Japanese women who are active on the international stage.
Dr. Ritsuko Komaki pioneers new cancer treatments and helps children as a professor of radiation oncology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. The center is one of the world’s largest treatment facilities, known for its cutting-edge medical care. In 2006, Dr. Komaki introduced proton therapy, which was at the time attracting attention as a new form of treatment, to the center.
Dr. Komaki’s career has its origin in painful childhood experiences. She was born in Amagasakiand raised in Hiroshima. When she was 10, a friend died of leukemia as a result of exposure to the radiation of the atomic bomb dropped on the city. As she puts it, “I knew that I couldn’t let this death be for nothing.”
The years passed and she qualified as a doctor, choosing to work in a facility that made use of the world’s latest treatments. She faced the reality, however, that existing treatments damaged healthy tissues, and many people continued to die from aftereffects. It is particularly important to prevent such aftereffects in children, as they can significantly affect the quality of life of children, who have long lives still ahead of them.
While searching for a treatment that would effectively target only diseased tissue, Dr. Komaki learned about proton therapy. The Houston center has achieved excellent results since introducing the technique in 2008, with patient numbers more than doubling by 2013. Today the facility treats cancer patients from all over the world.
“There’s nothing that makes me happier than the moment when smiling children thank me after they’re better.” Dr. Komaki dreams of making even more children smile in the future.
Professor in the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Radiation Oncology.
Graduated from Hiroshima University, where she studied medicine. Went to the United States to study radiation oncology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Has since spent around 40 years working as a doctor in the United States.
Some of Japan’s globally active women are contributing in emerging countries. Ms. Marumi Osaka has been working together with local residents in Panama to improve their living conditions. She first moved to Panama as an environmental education volunteer with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and started a project with local women making soap from waste oil.
While Panama is enjoying high economic growth, problems remain, including income disparity,poverty, and a gender gap. “I thought my initial goal would be environmental protection, but when I actually arrived I felt the need to boost incomes as a part of improving people’s living conditions,” Ms. Osaka says.
She tried a number of initiatives in the search for a breakthrough, but nothing paid off at first. Then a meeting with women from the village of El Cacao led to the plan that has become so successful. “Panamanian people fry food every day, producing large amounts of waste oil. I worked with the women of the village to turn that oil into soap and sell it for profit.”
It took two entire years before the local women could make soap by themselves. As these women had never worked outside their homes, it took even longer before they could talk about the product to customers and sell it. But their efforts paid off. “I was so happy when the local women told me of their pride in learning and being able to earn money for themselves,” says Ms. Osaka. “I knew that they would keep it up after I left.”
After three years in Panama, Ms. Osaka returned to Japan, where she is studying the lives of Panamanian farming village residents at graduate school. She wants to learn more and contribute to emerging countries around the world. Based on what she has gained from her Panamanian experience, she is starting to set her sights on her next target.
Panama Recycling Project
After working at a major transportation company, spent three years in Panama as an environmental education volunteer with JICA. Now studying at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences