JSPS Quarterly
No.18 2006 Winter Topics
Siries Message

Message from Former JSPS Fellow (6)

JSPS helps nurture Japan-US connection

Dr. S. Robert Young
Dr. S. Robert Young
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of South Carolina School of Medicine
JSPS Invitation Fellow (Short-term), 2005

My introduction to Japan began in the late 1960s when I became a PhD candidate in Human Genetics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Chairman of my department had been the principal investigator of a research project on the Genetic Effects of the Atomic Bomb. After spending several years in Hiroshima, he continued the study at Michigan. There was a steady flow of Japanese and American physicians and scientists back and forth.

When we began our research, I was fortunate to be accepted by Dr. Arthur Bloom, a cytogenetist. Dr. Bloom had done chromosome studies in Hiroshima, and I knew that he enjoyed Japanese culture, even studying koto and the language. Ultimately, I started working with a Japanese pediatrician, Dr. Yasuo Nakagome. While Yasuo was a clinician, his real love was the laboratory. We worked closely together and had much success and enjoyment. When Yasuo was leaving he said to me, "Some day I'll see you in Japan," and I chuckled.

In 1972, I took a position at the University of South Carolina, while Yasuo had gone to the Children's Medical Research Center in Tokyo. We stayed in touch with annual letters at New Years and by sending reprints of our publications. We were both enjoying exciting careers in the fast moving field of human genetics—Yasuo doing molecular work and I running a large prenatal diagnostic facility.

In 1988, Yasuo sent me a letter inviting me to spend a 6-month sabbatical with him. I didn't hesitate before asking my Chairman. Both he and my family endorsed the idea. I spent mid-1989 with Yasuo and enjoyed every minute. On weekdays, we worked hard in the lab and every weekend I was kept busy. It was as if people in the lab planned that I always had something to do. I climbed Mt. Fuji with them, participated in my neighborhood (NishiKoyama) mikoshi (carrying a portable shrine—for what seemed like miles), and my family spent August with me.

Following a prenatal diagnosis lecture I gave at Hiroshima, the Chairman of Obstetrics asked me if he could send a faculty member to my lab for a year or two. I arranged for this, including a small departmental stipend. Dr. Tomoya Mizunoe spent 1991 and was replaced by another obstetrician, Dr. Norio Miharu, who stayed two years. Over the last 15 years, I have hosted seven obstetricians for 1-2 year fellowships. I hope they all had as rewarding a work/play experience as I had enjoyed in Japan.

In 1998, I learned from Dr. Miharu that he was starting a new delicate microscopic procedure that we were already doing. I offered to go to his lab and assist them with the important details. He was agreeable but the trouble was funding. I had previously heard of JSPS and inquired of possible short-term support. Our joint proposal was awarded and we spent three weeks in a successful venture. I am sure that it saved Dr. Miharu several months of work and many thousands of dollars in reagents.

A similar thing occurred in 2005 when I learned that a friend of mine (Prof. Jun Fujita of Kyoto University School of Medicine) was starting a Masters Degree Program in Genetic Counseling. I had started a similar Program in 1985 and we had accrued considerable experience by then.

Again it seemed an on-site visit might be a meaningful experience. With Prof. Fujita's assistance, I was able to secure another JSPS Short-term Fellowship to meet with genetic counseling program directors at Kyoto (Profs. Ito and Kosugi), Shinshu (Prof. Fukushima) and Ochanomizu (Profs. Chiyo and Tamura) Universities.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my Japanese professional and personal experiences and hope that they were as rewarding to others. I want to thank JSPS not only for its financial support but also for its efficient and effective administration of these undertakings. I hope many, many other investigators will have the opportunities that I have had.

mikoshi in NishiKoyama (Tokyo) at Kyoto University
Carrying mikoshi in NishiKoyama (Tokyo), where he spent sabbatical with Prof. Nakagome Talking to a group of students about "genetic counseling" at Kyoto University

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JSPS Quarterly No.18 2006