Advertising Feature: The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine
Link to Japanese page [Profile] Dr. Shigeki SHIBAHARA, Tohoku University School of Medicine professor, Editor-in-Chief of The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine (TJEM) [Profile] Dr. Tatsuro MISU, Tohoku University School of Medicine Assistant Professor

The Great East Japan Earthquake

Tohoku University School of Medicine and The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine (TJEM) on the Day of the Earthquake

The Great East Japan Earthquake left substantial scars. We think it was hard on doctors as well.

[Photo] Tsunami-stricken residential area in Kesennuma

MISU: Even now, many people are suffering in the affected areas, and they continue to do so as the reconstruction effort has failed to move forward. A lot happened to me, too, including losing specimens that I had collected throughout my career as a researcher. But looking at the coastal areas, I see that mine are small losses by comparison.

On March 11th, I was in my laboratory. Books and laboratory equipment were scattered on the floor and bookcases were toppled against each other. I barely got out of the building. I went up to the 11th floor of Tohoku University Hospital, and as I was checking that the ward was alright, the internal hospital PA system announced that we needed to take emergency measures to deal with the state of disaster outside the university. At the instruction of the rescue center, I went to help the triage system to decide the order of treatment based on severity along with a few doctors and nurses. Alternating with the emergency staff, I did this until 7:30 pm. We got reports of information on the tsunami one after another. I was worried whether my home had been affected, but I was able to get in contact with my family and walked home in total darkness for two hours.

From the next day, we were waiting for severely injured people to arrive via helicopter as a backup hospital to the affected areas. In any case, after the disaster I felt like I was being pursued relentlessly. After that, I went to Ishinomaki, one of the affected areas, as part of the first medical support team. The situation in Ishinomaki was worse than I expected; it was totally different from what was going on in Sendai.

[Photo] A ship on the street in IshinomakiOn days off, I went to evacuation shelters around the Yuriage and Iwanuma areas. The people there and the doctors were completely exhausted. We started to receive supplies, but I was keenly aware that I was ill equipped to restore people's spirits. Even now I talk to the earthquake victims at the hospital I am in charge of. I feel that there is no way to reconstruct Tohoku University without reconstructing the Tohoku region.

SHIBAHARA: When the earthquake struck at 14:46, I was on the 7th floor of the School of Medicine building (Building 1). It shook long and hard, unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I was preparing myself for the building to collapse and for me to die. Fortunately, the building held up, and I remember being thankful for Japanese anti-seismic technology.

[Photo] Students in the entrance hall with an active emergency lamp, around 23:00 on March 11th 2011.At the time, since I was the Associate Dean of the School of Medicine, I was busy with emergency measures, like confirming the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. Since the power went out due to the earthquake, we had to confirm the safety of each building before the sun went down. We set up the security guards' room next to the first floor lobby area as the emergency headquarters for the Graduate School of Medicine as it had an emergency power supply. Students and their families with nowhere to go spent a cold night in that lobby.

[Photo] There was a small oil stove in the hall, around 23:00 on March 11th 2011.When we realized what a tragedy had taken place on the Sanriku coast, the Sendai plains, and the Soma plains, I felt I had no choice but to write something. I thought I should do what I could do as Editor-in-Chief. I could not believe the fact that so close to this campus thousands of people were dead or missing. As aftershocks were continuing, I wrote what I felt in my soul all at once. Using photographs provided by young doctors working in the affected areas, I completed it on March 28th and published it on April 9th (Tohoku J. Exp. Med. Vol.233 (2011), No.4 p.305-307). This was the first report in English from the affected areas. Here, we gave an overview of the Great East Japan Earthquake and its associated tsunami damage, and laid out a new editorial policy for TJEM by adding the subject of disaster science.

The electronic submission system worked right after the earthquake. So online publications (open access publications) had almost no trouble, but since printing companies were affected, publications of print journals were delayed by about a month. In those days, I really felt the effectiveness of online publications in times of disaster and was grateful for the gift of J-STAGE's support. In 2013, as an editor, I reported the total effect of the Great East Japan Earthquake on Tohoku University and a comparison to past disasters (Tohoku J. Exp. Med. Vol.229 (2013), No.4 p.287-299).