Satoshi Ōmura

Honoring and respecting his predecessors, he searched for ways to contribute to public welfare through "Research Management"

Picture : The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) project annual partnership forum (2005)

Considered management for research purposes

At the time that Ōmura began his collaboration with Merck, The Kitasato Institute was devoting the majority of its human resources and assets to develop and expand Kitasato University, which had been set up by the Institute in 1962. The Institute's resources became scarce and, being notified his laboratory would be closing down, Ōmura began to pool research funds from outside resources and arranged to "borrow" his laboratory and employees from the institute, becoming able to continue research on a self-pay basis. His efforts were extremely fruitful, as exemplified by the discovery of avermectin.

Picture : Kitasato Medical Center (KMC) surrounded by nature. It is a designated site for disaster management and clinical training.

※4 An endemic disease caused by a nematode that ultimately leads to blindness

In the past, Shibasaburo Kitasato had advocated and practiced his personal motto, "to apply the results of science to improve the quality of life for people." His work in managing Tsukushigaoka Yojoen, a hospital specializing in tuberculosis, while simultaneously directing efforts to increase the production of vaccines, helped formulate this concept. Ōmura also followed this approach throughout his career and, serving in various positions, from Auditor to Associate Director to Director, he vowed to preserve The Kitasato Institute and to propagate the working philosophy. In order to focus on managing to best effect, he relinquished his post as Professor at Kitasato University when he became Associate Director of The Kitasato Institute, even though "at the time, I didn't even know how to read a balance sheet" he recalls. However, upon receiving direct training from specialists, he took the initiative in rebuilding the institute's management and overall operations. One component of the plan that Ōmura came up with was to open a second hospital. Using income from the avermectin royalties and aware of both the national need for more high-quality medical facilities, he found the ideal location for the new facility at Kitamoto in Saitama Prefecture. Naturally, building a large-scale, state-of-the art hospital would have a direct impact on the roles and survival of local hospitals and clinics. Sure enough, the local medical association strenuously objected to the plan. Ōmura and his staff worked ceaselessly to emphasize the significant and mutual benefits the new hospital would bring to the community. In order to obtain the land-use permit, Ōmura continued to plead that "The Kitasato Institute is a Japanese treasure" and continually lobbied senior and junior politicians and public officials, with local residents quickly joining in to support the movement. Finally, in 1989, the new complex, including a nursing school and vaccine production plant, saw the light of day, marking the birth of the Kitasato Institute Medical Center Hospital (KMC).

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Picture: The hallway of KMC, filled with artwork.

Management is to foster individuals

KMC is "a hospital with art", bringing a whole new meaning to medicine being the "art of healing". Artworks of various sizes are displayed in the wards, waiting rooms, hallways and public spaces - all of which were donated, bought using the royalties fund, or collected through public advertisements, on a scale to put art museums to shame. In the obstetric and pediatric departments, the walls were actually painted by a student from Joshibi University of Art and Design, where Ōmura now serves as President. The intention was to help put the visitors at ease. KMC began following the concept and practice of 'Healing art" at a time when the notion did not really exist. Furthermore, Ōmura points out another critical advantage of the artwork, "the students at Kitasato Nursing School are able to study in a setting surrounded by creative and passionate art. Emotions develop and passions grow - I think the 21st century is an era of emotions,", he explains Ōmura's passion for teaching overlaps with his expertise in institutional management. Ōmura emphasizes that the word 'management' intrinsically contains the notion to, as he says, "foster individuals. In the Tales of Genji, when Hikaru Genji gave his son Yugiri to a stranger, he told him 'please teach him the ways of management'. In the process of developing, each individual possesses a unique vision, which in turn allows them to grow personally. Through management, individuals are fostered, and the individuals grow, take their place in and contribute to society. Therefore, management is a pivotal factor in human resource development", he concludes.

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Picture: Integration agreement was reached with a firm handshake (2006)

Under the name of The Kitasato Institute

In 2008, together with Tadayoshi Shiba, President of Kitasato Gakuen, Ōmura drove forward the merger and integration of The Kitasato Institute and Kitasato Gakuen. The two institutions had always been more or less indistinguishable, based on their founding principles and their interlocked history. With the physical and human capital of both august entities combined, it was believed they would be able to establish a stable, leading-edge research infrastructure and a leading seat of learning and research. As an All-Kitasato, "the whole would be greater than the sum of the parts" allowing the newly created facility to make a greater and more rapid contribution to society. During the lengthy deliberations about the merger and creation of a new corporation, Ōmura insisted on keeping the name "The Kitasato Institute" as an indispensable requirement. Even those individuals who previously held a pessimistic view became persuaded by Ōmura's persistent claims that "The Kitasato Institute is one of Japan's national treasures". The alumni from the institute showed reassuring support as well. "How can I continue research that can be applied to improve the quality of life for people around the world? 'Research management' is my life-long agenda. If I put in my best efforts in whatever I do, there will be people that support it," Omura reminisces. Truth indeed.

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Picture: With Director Burger at the Robert Koch Institute

Taking Shibasaburo Kitasato's philosophy to heart

Shibasaburo Kitasato profoundly respected his mentor, the internationally famous Dr. Robert Koch, throughout his lifetime. He regarded every accomplishment he had made as an instructional gift from Dr. Koch. Even after he returned home from his work in Germany, he never forgot to appreciate Dr. Koch's kindness and support. The continuing special relationship between the Kitasato Institute and the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin has lasted for over 100 years and is a perfect embodiment of Kitasato's philosophy and teaching. Ōmura holds Kitasato's values and sentiments to be of paramount importance. They have always guided his approach, as can be seen in his enduring respect and friendship for his own friend and mentor, Max Tishler.


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Satoshi Ōmura

Satoshi Ōmura is President Emeritus of the Kitasato Institute and Professor Emeritus at Kitasato University Besides his posts at the Kitasato Institute and University, Ōmura is Max Tishler Professor of Chemisrty at Wesleyan University (USA) and holds key posts as President of Joshibi University of Art and Design and President of the Yamanashi Academy of Sciences. He is also a Member of the Japan Academy



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