An Interview with Professor Sadayoshi Itoh on the Reception of the American Heart Association Arthur C. Corcoran Memorial Lecturer Award
"Measuring the Health of the Brain Based On the Functioning of the Kidney"
A message for the next generation
I always tell younger people to aim to become world-class researchers. When I was young, I thought I would become a private-practice doctor immediately after graduating from university and completing the initial training. But, when I joined the Second Internal Medicine Department of Tohoku University Hospital after finishing my internship at Furukawa City Hospital, my mentor, the late Professor Keishi Abe, said to me, "We are planning to send you to the U.S. next year to study. So, write a paper in English in this one-year period." He then added, "You need to do all the work that will be assigned to you during your first year here."
Since I was thinking about going into practice as soon as possible, studying in the U.S. was totally beyond the scope of assumption. But I saw the offer as a challenge worth a try and went to Detroit. There, I did research on renin secretion, as I explained earlier. And, after accomplishing some positive results, I came back to Japan.
After returning to Japan, I rejoined the Second Internal Medicine Department. But, then, I started to get calls from Professor Carretero of the Henry Ford Hospital, who repeatedly asked me to come back to the U.S. Finally, I was persuaded into going to the U.S. again. Later, as my research on perfusion of arterioles produced some good results, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other organizations gave me a huge sum of research funds, which allowed me to have a laboratory of my own. The next thing I knew, I had spent eight years in the U.S. My life went very differently from my original intention of becoming a private-practice doctor, but I think that the experience of doing research abroad has greatly helped me become what I am now.
Today, there is widespread unwillingness among young Japanese to go abroad. Is it because of the comfortable environment they have here?
It is certainly one of the reasons. So, if you are a highly motivated person, I think you should take advantage of Japan's comfortable environment conversely. From my own experience, I can say that working or studying abroad will benefit you much more than just staying in Japan even if it costs you your current position. If you have enough vitality and ability to work or study abroad, you will be able to get a decent job or position after you come back to Japan. That is why I always tell younger people to aim to succeed at a world-class level without being preoccupied with short-term stability of life in the home country.
So the abilities that you acquire studying abroad are special.
What you can acquire is more than just abilities and research results. Through a research life abroad, you will be able to get to know leading researchers in the world and build a network of personal connections by increasing your peers. Granted, the research community is a competitive world, where everyone around you is your rival. But, in such a competitive world, you can still find friends you can mutually respect. By becoming friends with researchers from around the world, I myself have been able to absorb diverse views of life and cultural differences, which I feel has helped enrich my life.
In your research life, you may get a chance to study abroad several times. From my experience, you should do it in an early stage of life when you can think flexibly and absorb new knowledge easily. I hope that more Tohoku University students will study abroad with brave ambitions to work on the world stage.