The Japanese Nobel of Asia is the ophthalmologist Hattori Tadashi. Hattori left her high-paying job in Japan two decades ago to give poor people in Vietnam access to eye care.
Since then, he and his team have restored sight to over 20,000 people for free. Now he has been named one of four recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Prize in the year 2022 – often referred to as the “Asia Nobel Prize” – for his humanitarian work.
Hattori Tadashi was one of Japan’s leading eye surgeons when a chance encounter at a conference two decades ago changed his life. He met a Vietnamese doctor who invited him to bring his talents to his country.
Find out more about this Japanese doctor’s career and how he became important to Vietnam here.
What does the Japanese Nobel Prize in Asia do?
Initially, the plans were to stay only 3 months in Vietnam. But once he started seeing patients in the country, he was shocked to see the prevalence of cataract blindness.
Even so, Hattori returned to Japan, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the people who would go blind just because they couldn’t afford surgery.
That’s why he decided to quit his job and started traveling between Japan and Vietnam almost every month. For two decades, he has been treating patients for free in Vietnam, using his own savings to buy and donate medical equipment. He also works as a freelance surgeon in Japan to raise money for his cause.
Hattori says her source of enthusiasm is her patients’ smiles. “When I see a patient smile after surgery when they see the light again, I am filled with happiness. This is not something money can buy.”
In addition, Dr. Hattori Tadashi is the founder of the Asia-Pacific Prevention of Blindness Association and a specially appointed professor at Kyoto Prefectural University.
In Vietnam, its area of expertise is in the countryside. It is in rural areas where the cost of transportation to get to a big city hospital can be a budget buster for many, and paying for surgery is often out of the question.
In Vietnam, it is very difficult for people to get even medical treatments that are basic for eye health.
In this way, Hattori also conducts medical missions in remote areas to treat patients. Despite facing a myriad of problems ranging from long train delays to government bureaucracy, he never gave up because he believes that the gift of sight helps lift people out of poverty.
Hattori decided to become a doctor when he was in middle school after overhearing medical staff at a hospital talking disrespectfully about his father, who was suffering from cancer. It inspired him to be someone who treats people with respect. Shortly afterwards, when his father died, he left a message for his son: “Live for others.”
So far, Hattori has trained more than 30 Vietnamese doctors to perform sophisticated eye operations.
Source: Nhk Japan.