2015 Program Participants

TOMODACHI J&J Disaster Nursing Training Program
2015 Program Participants 

Soyoka Fujisawa
School: Miyagi University, School of Nursing
Hometown: Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

“People have different values and perspectives depending on their age or experience level, their race or culture. However, I don’t think many people have ever been ‘mentally prepared’ for death. I have experienced this during the Great East Japan Earthquake. To stop more people from experiencing this horror, I will share my experience and emphasize the importance of strengthening local communities.
During the disaster, when I heard on the radio that 200 to 300 bodies were found in the waters near my home, I still couldn’t get in touch with my family and prepared to hear about their deaths. I would not wish this feeling on anyone, and decided to participate in this program to study what the global standard is for disaster nursing and how we should handle these difficulties brought on by disaster. In the future, I would like to gain experience working as a nurse in Miyagi Prefecture and eventually work with Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JICA) to expand my support internationally. By participating in this program, I believe I will be able to further my knowledge on disaster nursing and local nursing through a global standard. As one who can talk about their experiences from the Disaster, I feel that I will be able to support the affected areas and its people with the knowledge I gain from this program.”

Ikumi Hoshi
School:Sendai Tokshu Nursing College
Hometown: Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

“Experiencing the March 11th Disasters became my catalyst to pursue disaster nursing. It was four years ago, but I still remember the day very vividly. During the first few days after the Disaster, I had no knowledge of what was occurring in other parts of Japan; only what was happening in my own town. After a few days, I was able to get access to information through newspapers and the radio, and finally realized the gravity of the situation. As I watched various news broadcasts on the disasters, what caught my eye were the self-defense forces, nurses, and doctors who were working selflessly day and night to save lives. I also heard that numerous international volunteer organizations were coming into Japan to aid in relief efforts, and realized that I was able to re-establish my life after the disasters because of their support. This awareness inspired me to want to be a part of this support system and thus created the base for my strong passion to become a disaster nurse. Since I experienced the 3.11 disasters first hand, I can support disaster stricken people in a unique personal way. When a disaster strikes, I hope to work on the front lines to save as many human lives as I can. In order to do this, I need to learn about various medical fields and gain new experiences. As a first step towards this goal, I am determined to see first-hand the state of disaster medicine and nursing in the United States.”

Ayana Iwabuchi
School: Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing School
Hometown: Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture

“Through this program, I’d like to learn about issues related to disaster nursing and community nursing, and bring the knowledge back to my own community. As a healthcare provider, I want to make a contribution to those in need all around the world through my knowledge of healthcare.
I am interested in the differences between international healthcare systems and Japan’s healthcare system. In the future, I want to help areas that need medical care from a disaster as a nurse and provide service to people not just in Japan, but overseas as well. In order to make this happen, I need to acquire the skills and knowledge that are being taught overseas through programs like this. By participating in this program, it brings me a step closer to my dream. Also by representing the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, I look forward to sharing my experiences and the actions we took after the earthquake. Then, when a similar disaster happens in other countries, I hope they can remember my story and use it as an example to prepare and act.”

Mari Miura
School:Sendai Medical Center School of Midwifery
Hometown: Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

“In the future, I hope to be a midwife in an international setting. In March of 2011, a frightening disaster called the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. I still vividly remember how all lifelines were down, and my family and I slept huddled together in the freezing cold and pitch black darkness. When I was finally able to view the news, what came into view were the frightening images of the tsunami and the damaged coastal towns. I also saw images of people living in fear and anxiety at the evacuation centers. Unable to help those people, I began to think of ways in which I could support and contribute to the devastated communities. It was during this time that I came across a news segment about a midwife who had helped a woman give birth on the day of the disaster. In a time of emergency, without the usual tools for childbirth available, I watched the midwives provide support, calmly protect the mother, and successfully deliver the baby; I was very moved. The news segment also showed them visiting various evacuation sites to give health advice to pregnant women and mothers, and made me realize that new lives are created and born even during times of disasters, and that it is especially during these times that our medical capabilities are put to the test. In order for me to become a competent midwife, I need to learn about disaster nursing; not only from a domestic perspective, but also from an international perspective to help broaden my horizons. In the future, I hope to work as a midwife in an international setting and provide my professional knowledge to people all over the world.”

Natsumi Miyakawa
School: Ishinomaki Red Cross Nursing School
Hometown: Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture

“During the Great East Japan Earthquake my family survived, but my brother was on an artificial respirator and I ran around town desperately searching for electricity to keep him alive. The evacuation site was located at my middle school, a place I knew better than anyone else, and felt it was my duty to help out as much as I could: I cleaned the toilets, distributed food and water with a smile, and interacted with the elderly evacuees. The notion that “I am not the only victim, but that everyone is hurt” kept us all strong and allowed us to keep surviving. Through this experience, I realized that even if we do not speak a common language, as long as there is the will to share your feelings and the will to listen to other’s feelings, we have the ability to understand one another. Although I was the one chosen to represent Japan on this program, the experiences and lessons learned are for everyone. What’s important is to “pass it forward” and I look forward to sharing the wealth gained from this program to all. Right now I only know about disasters from my own experiences and certain media coverage, but by studying disaster nursing and interacting with numerous people from all walks of life, I hope to spread my knowledge of the disaster, not only within Japan but internationally as well. In the future, I haven’t decided whether I want to work as a nurse at the Red Cross Society, travel to developing countries as a member of the JICA workforce, or stay and teach health education to children, but I hope that I will be able to gain more insight through this program. I look forward to meeting those with the same mindset to connect internationally, share our experiences, and work towards a better brighter future together.”

Nao Onodera
School: Kesennuma City Hospital Nursing School
Hometown: Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture

“I would like to share our experiences from the Great East Japan Earthquake, talk about the importance of life and the links between people that I learned, and my appreciation for the support we received from the United States during the disasters. The U.S. military came to save many lives by bringing food and water, searching for missing people in locations where the tsunami hit, and clearing out the wreckage of many buildings. I want to create awareness about the remaining issues after the disaster by connecting with people I will meet on this program in order to create a brighter future. I would like to see with my own eyes what the current medical situation is in the United States to see how healthcare is being provided and by whom. I have only been to a small local hospital in my town, so I look forward to witnessing the advanced technology the U.S. hospitals are using. Furthermore, many people suffer from PTSD. Even four years after the disaster, my father still suffers from nightmares about the tsunami, and he is certainly not alone. Mental care will continue to be a need. I would like to learn the methods that are used in the U.S. for mental healthcare to utilize those skills when I become a nurse. Through this program, I look forward to broadening my horizons to find new ways to look at Japan and the disaster-stricken areas in hopes of finding further opportunities for improvement.”

Mikiko Sato
School: Miyagi University School of Nursing
Hometown: Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

“Having experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake, I am currently studying nursing with hopes of working in the field of disaster nursing in the future. Immediately after 3.11, life was extremely unstable as all of our lifelines had been severed and there was no way to verify my family’s safety. Two weeks after the disaster, we finally got word of my grandmother, the last family member we had not been able to get in touch with. That was the first time I saw my father break down in tears. I remember this moment vividly for that was the time my naïve habit of thinking that I would live to see tomorrow, diminished. Through this experience, I learned that, instead of spending endless hours planning out action plans, I should act immediately and pursue whatever I desired with all my strength. Now, four years after the disaster, my grandfather is living alone in a temporary housing facility. I saw numerous healthcare workers and nurses help my grandfather and others affected by the disaster, and became interested in studying disaster nursing. This program is attractive as it provides me the opportunity to travel to the United States to study disaster medicine and learn from other communities that recovered from disaster. I hope to become a nurse who can utilize the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake to become a model case for future disaster prevention professionals around the world to learn from.”

Marina Sugawara
School: Sendai Saiyo Gakuin College
Hometown: Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

“When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit, I was in my first year of high school. During my Sophomore Year in college, I had the opportunity to hear from a nurse who helped out at various evacuation centers in Tohoku after the disaster, and became interested in becoming a disaster nurse who can support strong community ties in times of crisis. Since the disaster, a great number of people have suffered from psychological issues. Not being able to express their anxieties has become harmful to the well-being of people. I began to contemplate ways I can help to prevent or alleviate these psychological issues. I believe that as a nurse, it will become extremely important to interact and support those who are suffering, and truly cherish the “people-to-people spirit”. By participating in this program, I wish to gain a deeper understanding of disaster nursing, and help spread the knowledge gained in order to meet the needs of the people I treat.”

Megumi Komatsu [MENTOR]
Sendai Medical Center, School of Nursing and Midwifery
Hometown: Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture

Megumi Komatsu has experienced both 3.11 and 9/11. She became a nurse in 1984 and started working at the National Sendai Hospital (now called the Sendai Medical Center). With 15 years of experience in the Neurosurgical ward, the Sensory organ ward, the Hematology and Oncology ward, and as a staff and the vice chief of nurse in Japan, she has also trained extensively in the United States started with a HIV/AIDS clinical training program at the University of Southern California. She later studied English at New York University and Infection Control at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. When the September 11th attacks occurred in 2001, she was there in New York City and experienced disaster nursing first hand. Afterwards, Ms. Komatsu joined a NGO that supports AIDS patients and became a Registered Nurse (RN) in the State of New York. After coming back to Japan in 2007, she enrolled in Tohoku University School of Medicine and finished the first half of a Ph.D program in the field of Gerontologic Nursing. In 2012 she became a teacher at Sendai Medical Center, School of Nursing and Midwifery while finishing her Ph.D program at Tohoku University School of Education. Ms. Komatsu is excited to support these future nurses who will see a new world and be inspired to take action through this program.

Pre-Trip Seminars 2015
(June 2015: U.S. –> Japan)

Tener Goodwin Veenema, PhD, MPH, MS, RN, FAAN
Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Center for Refugee and Disaster Response, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
President & Chief Executive Officer, Tener Consulting Group, LLC.

Tener Goodwin Veenema is an internationally recognized expert in disaster nursing and public health emergency preparedness. As president and chief executive officer of the Tener Consulting Group, LLC, Dr. Veenema served as senior consultant to the United States Government, including the Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, the Administration for Children and Families, and most recently the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Her decision-support software and information technology applications for disaster response have been presented at conferences around the globe. Her scholarship includes the leading international text in the field, Disaster Nursing: Disaster Nursing and Emergency Preparedness for Chemical, Biological and Radiological Terrorism and Other Hazards (Springer, 3rd Edition, 2013), and two nationally award-winning Disaster e-Learning Courses, Red Cross ReadyRN Disaster and Emergency Preparedness for Health Services(American Red Cross, 2007) and ReadyRN (Elsevier, MC Strategies, 2008). Dr. Veenema received master’s degrees in nursing administration (1992), pediatrics (1993), and public health (1999) and a PhD in health services research and policy (2001) from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She is a member of the American Red Cross National Scientific Advisory Board and is an elected Fellow in both the National Academies of Practice and the American Academy of Nursing. Dr. Veenema was recently awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal of Honor from the International Red Crescent (Geneva, Switzerland), the highest international award that a nurse can receive.

Krista D. Cato, MHA, BSN, RN
Clinical Program Coordinator, PICU
Infectious Disease, Emergency Response, Global Health, Children’s National Health System

Krista Cato is a recognized nurse leader in the field of pediatric Ebola response, Critical Care Nursing, and the development of sustainable nursing programs locally and internationally. As Clinical Program Coordinator, for Children’s National Health System, Krista provides expertise, instruction, and directs preparedness efforts in areas such as emerging infectious disease, emergency response, and global health. Krista is responsible for the internal development of a comprehensive institutional pediatric Ebola Response Plan and external consultation to federal agencies on care of pediatric Persons under Investigation (PUI) and proven Ebola Virus Disease. Most recently, Krista collaborated with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help develop guidelines for care of the pediatric Ebola patient, as part of a Children’s Health Taskforce. Krista has served, as nurse lead in the development and sustainability of health outreach programs; most significantly the Pediatric Heart program in Kampala, Uganda. Krista has presented at local and national conferences on the development and sustainability of health outreach programs.

Krista has also focused her leadership efforts on nursing empowerment, curriculum design, and research that supported quality improvement and outcome initiatives. Krista has served as an external consultant on the development of an e-curriculum to support civilians and military in the care of pediatric patients in post disaster areas. Krista holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and a Master of Science in Health Care Administration. She is a member of the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health. Krista’s clinical research interests include: global health nursing, development of sustainable programs, emerging infectious disease, nurses’ role in emergency response and humanitarian relief, nursing curriculum design, and building resilience.