Joint Disaster Nursing Program – Opening Ceremony

Address by the President of the Host University

Here in Kochi, the cherry blossoms bloomed earlier than in any other city in Japan, and they have already been replaced with young green leaves, filling the air with the fresh scent of verdure. It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you here today for the first opening ceremony of the Joint Disaster Nursing Program, a doctoral program administered by five graduate schools in Japan.

I am very honored to conduct this ceremony in the presence of Hiroshi Matsusaka, Head of the Office for Legal Affairs at the General Affairs Division of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, who attends on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; Takaaki Iwaki, Vice-Governor of Kochi Prefecture, the establishing body of the University of Kochi; and Alex Ross, Director of the WHO Kobe Centre, where many of our students will participate as interns in the future. I am grateful that you could join us here today.

The 11 doctoral students whose names were read a few minutes ago have been accepted into the graduate schools of Chiba University, Tokyo Medical and Dental University; the Japan Red Cross College of Nursing, the University of Hyogo; and the University of Kochi.
Each of you will enter one of these graduate schools while at the same time studying in the Joint Disaster Nursing Program, a five-year doctoral program administered jointly by the five universities.
As the representative of the presidents of the five universities, I sincerely welcome you into the Disaster Nursing Global Leader or DNGL Program.

The program in which you will study is unique.
That is, a joint program like this one, administered by national, public, and private universities with different establishing bodies, has not been created previously in other fields, so we encountered a host of challenges in the preparation period leading up to the program’s inauguration.
However, by overcoming these problems, we were able to develop a program that combines the strengths of each university and achieves something that no single university could have done.

Therefore, although you belong to different graduate schools, you can benefit from the faculty members and resources of five graduate schools; in a way, it is almost as if you have enrolled at five graduate schools at once.
In fact, when you successfully complete your courses in five years’ time, you will receive a certificate of completion signed by the presidents of all five universities.

 

Furthermore, establishment of this program was possible only through the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s “Doctoral Program for Leading Graduate Schools.” Over the last 18 months since the Ministry selected this program for assistance, we have succeeded in establishing an educational environment that connects the geographically remote universities and in creating surroundings that will enable you to devote yourselves to your studies over the next five years.
We are sincerely grateful to have the opportunity to direct this program by the Ministry’s Program.

Now, as I am sure you are all aware, large-scale disasters continue to occur tone after the other around the world.
According to disaster prevention information released by the Cabinet Office, approximately 160 million people globally are affected by disasers each year, and approximately 100,000 of these people lose their lives.
Disasters also cause more than 40 billion dollars’ worth of damage per year (that is the average between 1970 and 2008).
Furthermore, over the last 10 years, the annual number of disasters and disaster victims has been roughly three times greater than that in the 1970s.

Asian countries, in particular, have suffered a large number of natural disasters, and in Japan, vivid scars from the Great East Japan Earthquake of three years ago can still be found throughout the affected areas.
The number of people living in temporary housing or emergency shelters in other prefectures has risen to around 267,000, and these living conditions have caused adverse effects on the victims’ health. In fact, the 1,671 people who have died from health issues related to living conditions after the earthquake now exceed the 1,607 who died as a direct result of the initial earthquake and tsunami (Nikkei Shimbun, March 11, 2014).

Even last year, Japan continued to experience natural disasters, including Typhoon Man-yi, as well as manmade disasters such as the explosion at the Fukuchiyama Fireworks Festival.
Around 14 million people were affected by a typhoon in the Philippines in November, and 3.5 million people were left destitute after losing their homes.

These conditions continue to even exist today and are still fresh in our memories.
As we frequently hear of the loss of life due to wars and conflicts, it often feels as though disasters have become a part of our daily lives. This week, the news that a tsunami caused by the 2014 Iquique Earthquake off the coast of Chile had reached the mainland caused many sleepless nights as we witnessed flashbacks of past tsunami-related sufferings and were reminded about the Nankai Trough or Tonankai earthquakes that are expected to occur in the near future.

The history of disaster nursing can be traced back to the work of Florence Nightingale in the mid-19th century. Subsequently, disaster relief operations conducted by the International Red Cross Society and the armed forces of various nations have helped to save a great number of lives.

More recently, the approach of disaster nursing, which also encompasses disaster prevention and mitigation as stages of the disaster cycle, was proposed by professional associations and the Japan Society of Disaster Nursing after the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995, and it was subsequently applied to disaster management.
However, the experiences of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and the Great East Japan Earthquake three years ago showed that the disaster nursing systems developed up to that point were insufficient for dealing with disasters. Although many disasters appear to occur spontaneously, in some cases we can anticipate them or feel them drawing near, even if we are not quite sure what form the disaster may take.

For example, while many experts warn that the world is gradually getting warmer, the increase in ice around the North Pole, sunspots, and the expansion of the area of heavy snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere this past winter have led some experts to believe that the earth is heading toward a period of cooling.
In either case, climate change is destined to bring with it a new set of disasters.
Furthermore, civilization has generated an abundance of factors that can contribute to large-scale disasters, such as the increase in poverty, which is brought forth by the political and economic instability on a global scale; widening health status disparities; and population migration, which is accompanied by rapid urbanization.

The students who have joined the program this year are expected to become global leaders in the field of disaster nursing.
So what exactly is a global leader? Last year’s guest speaker, Judith Oulton, recommended that students first become “global citizens.”
She told us that students must develop global citizenship in the same way that children gradually learn to walk?through experience.
But this begs the question: what is a global citizlen? Outon considers a global citizen to be “anyone who works to make the world a better place,” meaning that it is still possible to be a global citizen while working in an insignificant corner of the world. However, in order to do that, one must always consider the whole world; understand the characteristics of customs, cultures, and values of peoples of the world; and endeavor to solve problems while coexisting with others.

Nevertheless, this is by no means an easy task. I am sure that you will encounter difficulties many times over.
In particular, you may experience a sense of frustration and despair as you meet people who are suffering under the wretched conditions of disasters, and I am sure that, at some point, you will feel as if the whole world is against you.

 

When I feel as if the whole world is against me, I think of Nelson Mandela.
The message that he gave to his people and to the world, after being unfairly oppressed and imprisoned for 27 years by the white society of South Africa, fills me with an unlimited supply of courage. It is well known that Mandela received the Nobel Prize for fighting oppression, while at the same time never losing sight of his purpose or succumbing to anger.
He forgave his enemies and spread peace throughout the world. I wandered through his sea of words, searching for the source of his strength. Then I came across the following quotation:
If you are in harmony with yourself, you may meet a lion without fear, because he respects anyone with self-confidence.

Even lions respect those who believe in themselves!

People who believe in themselves are also capable of overcoming any situation, no matter how difficult it may seem.
I hope that during the next five years, by acquiring specialized knowledge and skills, you students will get to know yourselves well and develop the ability to maintain harmony with yourselves, whatever difficulties may arise. The key to achieving this ideal is to develop the ability to believe in yourself.
You have plenty of time, and I hope that you will make achieving harmony with yourself a priority.

Finally, as the representative of the five universities, I would like to conclude this address by thanking all the guests once again for attending today’s opening ceremony.
We look forward to your further guidance and encouragement, which will play an important role in our students’ growth and in the development of DNGL into a highly effective, leading doctoral program.

 

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