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The existence of successive generations of doctors in the same family is not unusual; but, as a rule, they don’t always practice in the same home town. Even more extraordinary, how often do related doctors volunteer to work together in a city far away from their native country? Following a tradition started by Dr. Miki Masaru, who has been carrying out research in Chiang Mai for 33 years, the most recently arrived team of medical volunteers includes Dr. Masao Miyashita and his son 19 year old Satoshi Miyashita, third generation. All these men are connected with Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan.

Three generations of medical volunteers practice in Chaing Mai.

The first project Dr. Masaru selected was a gallstone survey using ultra sound equipment, scheduled in the month of August of each year. The second project is endoscopy HP or helicobacter Pylonincidence.

Forty three years ago medical students from Nippon Medical School came to Chiang mai to observe medical care outside of Japan to broaden their experience. The visiting students program was in its tenth year, when Dr. Masaru was invited to accompany the medical students to Chiang Mai. The chosen field of Dr. Masaru is gastro intestinal surgery. He did want to come to Thailand but thought the time spent in Thailand should be of benefit to his medical career. That is when he thought he would study and compare samples of gallstones. In the first year visit to Chiang Mai, he asked for gallstone samples for his study expecting to locate specimens removed from patients at CMU medical hospital. But, when he asked surgeons, there were no gallstone samples available. Dr. Masaru was advised to check with pathology but the samples had already been preserved in formalin and could not be analyzed in that state.

Dr. Masaru returned to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok and met with Prof Dr. Aroon, a young Thai doctor who had just returned from Germany. Dr. Aroon gave Dr. Masaru 30 gallstone specimens to analyze in order to discover the differences between Thai and Japanese. The study was aimed at determining the composition of gallstones removed from patients Through Dr. Masaru’s contact, Dr. Aroon had the opportunity to travel to Japan to analyze gallstone samples there.

On his next trip to Chiang Mai, Dr. Masaru brought the first ultrasound scanner to Thailand to test for gallstones. An ultrasound scan can provide a great deal of information about a person’s condition by confirming whether gallstones are present, showing how many stones are present, and their size. The ultrasound scan makes it possible to see whether the stones are in the gallbladder or the ducts. Through this work, Dr. Aroon became a pioneer in the gallstone field. This professional contact was to benefit other Thai doctors through the years. Dr. Pongsiri Pradthanadee, Director of Senior Citizen Council, now a retired Chiang Mai based cardiologist, wrote a medical paper on gallstones through the contact with Dr. Masaru.

Endoscopy HP was brought into examination with the aim of detecting early stage of gastro cancer. Dr. Masaru, however, found very few cases. Even today, only advanced cases are found due to the fact that patients wait until there is intense pain and uncomfortable symptoms and by the stage is far advanced.

Chiang Mai’s Gawila Military Hospital staff opened its doors to allow Dr. Masaru to survey patients for the first seven years of his research. He found, in general, the incidence of gastro cancer in Thais to be uncommon, with a higher incidence in Japan. Ten to fifteen years ago, the research was expanded to include HP incidence.

Today Dr. Masaru looks back to the past and has noticed a big change in the culture. Thirty years ago, it was very difficult to find Thai people who were 60 years and older for the survey. The volunteer team examined 200 people per day but the age was 30 to 40 years old. These days, examinations include many patients in their seventies.

Dr. Masaru is grateful for the overall friendship and professional ties he has with the Chiang Mai Faculty of Medicine staff. Dr. Masaru has brought 200 Japanese medical students to Thailand, and has helped many Thai doctors to write medical research papers. Five of whom are leading professor doctors in Chiang Mai University Hospital and Siriraj Hospital. Thirty years ago, a medical student, a young Thai woman, was introduced to Nippon Medical School and today, Dr. Sirikan Yamada, works very closely with Dr. Masaru during his annual trips to Chiang Mai. The Nippon Medical School has programs offering scholarships for Thai doctors to study in Japan for one year.

The next generation to come to Chiang Mai is Dr. Masao Miyashita, who is vice director of Nippon Medical School. One year ago he became President of Southeast Asian Medical Research Society. He is developing a new project to gather statistics pertinent to the very high rate of liver cancer in Thailand. This is a unique phenomenon in the Thai population due to parasites. With new diagnostic techniques, the research will identify the high risk area in the population.

It is hoped that the Chiang Mai University Faculty of Medicine will accept this project and be active in the follow-up of the project. The carcigen process takes 10 to 25 years to develop cancer. The third generation of Dr. Masaru’s extended volunteer team and son of Dr. Miyashita is Satoshi Miyashita, 19 years old, and now a first year medical student who will carry on the tradition of volunteerism and medical research for the Chiang Mai people.

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