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Upstate banner lifts spirits after Japanese earthquake-tsunami

Upstate students, HK, KFL-banner 4-1-11

This Aril photograph at Upstate Medical University shows first-year medical student Melissa Kaye, Hajime Kuwayama, MD, Kathy Faber-Langendoen, MD, Professor and Chair, Bioethics & Humanities; first year medical students Ilija Aleksic and Christine Crana.

The unprecedented disaster that occurred March 11, 2011 in northeast Japan killed about 25,000 people and created enormous destruction. The people of the area have started to recover, and the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami is being repaired, but difficulties at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant persist.

Students in Syracuse discussed the disaster during a class in bioethics at Upstate Medical University that month. Wanting to help, some students suggested volunteering assistance in the medical relief.  "At that time many rescue teams were already gathering from many countries," recalls Gregory Eastwood, MD,  a professor of bioethics and humanities. "We recognized that language is a problem, especially for the older Japanese, most of whom do not speak English. After a long discussion, we decided to send a message banner to the evacuated people in the affected area."

Each student wrote a supportive message, some in English and others in Chinese, Korean, Arabic and other languages. The sentiments expressed "our hearts are with you."

The banner was sent to Katsutoshi Obara, MD, PhD, a professor at Fukushima Medical University, which plays a prominent role as the major medical center for the largest disaster in the world. He says the banner encourages not only the patients but also the medical team.

Katsutoshi Obara, MD, PhD, center, is surrounded by the medical team at Fukushima Medical Universith Hospital, holding the banner sent from Syracuse..