I am greatly honored to have been designated recipient of the 1976 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. Attending this presentation ceremony, I must frankly confess that my conscience still asks me whether my past achievements really deserve this recognition. But please be assured, Trustees of the Foundation, that I will share it with my rural medicine colleagues who recognize the categorical imperative of delivering increased and sophisticated health care to millions of medically underprivileged people in Asia.
My selection newly awakes me to our grave task, particularly when I give thought to the late President Magsaysay’s devotion to rural reconstruction. When your government hosted the U.N. Community Development Conference for South and Southeast Asia in 1954, he said: “The spirit of self-help is sweeping our rural communities . . . the role of the government is simply to tap the creative energies of our people and to provide the means by which their desire for improvement can be translated into permanent benefit. It is for this purpose that our health, education and social welfare programs are being reoriented with emphasis on self-help.”
Serving as director of a general hospital in the middle of the Japanese equivalent of the Alps, I was deeply impressed by these sagacious words as I was keenly aware of the necessity of awakening people to the protection of their health on their own initiative.
It has already been 31 years since I left the hospital of Imperial Tokyo University and began working as a surgeon in the present hospital. My dearest hope was to protect the health of medically underprivileged rural people, but again I must confess that I have not fully realized this ideal of mine. I am aware that the road along which I am trodding is thorny, and God knows whether I shall be able to arrive at the destination in my lifetime. If there were anything good about myself at all, it would be my determination to spend my lifetime deep in the mountains for the sake of rural people.
In recent years, the technological developments in every field of medicine have been spectacular. On the other hand, one is compelled to note that many problems have yet to be solved in respect of the delivery of medical and health care to outlying areas. Gravest of these is the formulation of measures to cope with the so-called doctorless villages. Rural people are not blessed with sophisticated medical care. To make the matter worse, their communities are fraught with hazardous environmental conditions, and when their economy is developed at a rapid pace, new problems developing from urbanization also endanger their health.
The staff of our rural hospital has been striving to provide sustained community medicine for the benefit of local people with their cooperation. No rural hospitals could fulfill their mission simply by taking care of patients. Considerable energy must be devoted to outpatient services, to be sure, but there is need to evolve what we call “village health care,” in which physicians are sent out to engage in public health work, go round doctorless villages and provide mass health screening. These activities must be preventive in nature, rather than being satisfied with the early detection of diseases. To evolve such care there is need for deep understanding about and sympathy for rural people. In this context, health education to rural people turns out to be self-education in humanism to us medical care workers. It is with this philosophy in mind that we are striving to develop movements for the protection of rural peoples’ health through the mass media, based on our past advances, and also to reorient physicians, public health nurses and livelihood guidance workers in rural medicine. Folk legend says genesis here in the Philippines was by Divine Wind. The bamboo was split, and there was a man called malakas, for strong, and a woman called maganda, for beautiful. Each had a role to play. In rural medical and health care, too, medical care workers and inhabitants have mutual roles to play.
Once again, I must express my most sincere appreciation for being invited to Manila for the presentation of the Magsaysay Award. Nothing will give me greater pleasure than if the achievements of the Japanese Association of Rural Medicine prove to be of use in protection of rural health in your country during the course of our future interchanges. We are in full sympathy with the devotion of Filipinos to the construction of a peaceful country since your independence from long years of colonial rules. I, as a Japanese citizen, must deeply apologize for all the atrocities committed by the Japanese military in your country during World War II. When Japan’s reparations to the Philippines were completed last month, President Marcos generously stated that it is time people stopped talking about the dreadful war. We, the Japanese, must admonish ourselves not to presume upon his generosity.
Last but not least, I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the earthquake and tidal wave victims in Mindanao. I have asked the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation to set aside half of my prize as a donation for their relief.