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Kunio Okuda

Born 1921
Died 2003

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Japanese physician, born May 21, 1921; died February 2, 2003.

Biography of Kunio Okuda

A short biography of Kunio Okuda:

Kunio Okuda began his medical training at the age of 17. He received his MD from Manchuria Medical College in 1944. He then took the post of Research Fellow at the Chiba University School of Medicine before becoming Assistant Professor at the Yamaguchi Medical College in 1951. This also marked the beginning of a ten year connection with the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene, firstly as a Fellow in Medicine and Biochemistry and subsequently, in 1958, as Assistant Professor of Biochemistry.

In 1963 Okuda was made Professor of Medicine at Kurume University and held that tenure until he took up the equivalent post at Chiba University in 1971. He later became the Emeritus Professor of Medicine there.

Okuda has served terms as President for both the International Association of for the Study of the Liver, and the Asian-Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver. In 1982 he became Vice President for the Organization Mondiale de Gastro-Enterologie, later becoming an Honorary President in 1988. He has also served as President of the International Congress on Vitamins and Related Biofactors.

He has served on the Editorial Board of Hepatology in the capacity of Associate Editor, and as Editor of the Journal of Hepatology and the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, as well as an Associate Editor for Seminars in Liver Disease.

In 1990 Professor Okuda received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association for the Study of the Liver, and in 1998 the Bokus Medal from the World Congress of Gastroenterology.

(From the website of zoominfo: http://www.zoominfo.com/Search/PersonDetail.aspx?PersonID=67122858)

One of our contributors, William Charles Caccamise Sr, was a close friend of Kunio Okuda from 1948 until Okuda's death from prostatic cancer in 2003. Dr. Okuda was involved with Dr. Caccamise in the initial report of Takayasu's Disease in the American eye literature (American Journal of Ophthalmology). Okuda and Caccamise introduced the term Takayasu's disease.

Caccamise writes this about his friend Kunio Okuda, MD, PhD:

"Dr. Okuda and I were close friends from 1948, when I was Military Public Health Officer-in-Charge of Chiba Prefecture, until his death in 2003. Among many things, he was an outstanding hepatologist. He was particularly interested in techniques of imaging diagnosis, and among other instruments, he designed the "Chiba needle" - also known as the "Okuda needle" or the " Okuda-Chiba needle" for percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography. Through modesty he preferred that his invention be referred to as the Chiba liver-biopsy needle.

He was the perpetual scholar. While studying an outbreak of tularemia in Chiba Prefecture (Japan) in 1948-1949, he intentionally infected himself to better evaluate blood titers and other aspects of the disease. "

Obituary of Kunio Okuda by Francisco Vilardell:
From William Charles Caccamise Sr we also received this obituary of Kunio Okuda by Francisco Vilardell, Honorary President of OMGE (O.M.G.E. Organisation Mondiale de Gastro-Entérologie).

"I first met Kunio Okuda in 1953, when we were both taking an introductory course on American culture at Columbia University in New York, as part of our Fulbright scholarships. It was the beginning of a long friendship. After the 2-month course, Okuda went to Johns Hopkins University, where he worked for several years doing research on vitamin B12 and was awarded a Ph.D. After publishing several important papers on his thesis topic, he returned to Japan, where he was soon appointed professor at Kurume University, and a few years later at Chiba University, where he remained for the rest of his career. At Chiba University Hospital, he established a center for the study of hepatic disease that earned him wide international recognition. He was a tremendous worker and left an outstanding legacy both in the fields of hepatology and hematology - as shown by his 553 published papers in English and 14 books on a variety of subjects such as idiopathic portal hypertension, hepatocellular carcinoma, intrahepatic lithiasis, and imaging techniques in hepatobiliary disease.

Among his scientific achievements, particular mention should be given to his research on vitamin B12; his original technique for isolating intestinal loops in the rabbit to study intestinal absorption; and his investigations on liver cancer and other hepatic diseases. He was particularly interested in techniques of imaging diagnosis, and among other instruments, he designed the "Chiba needle" for percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography.

An organized man
Kunio Okuda played an important role in the International Association for the Study of the Liver (IASL), of which he was president from 1978 to 1980. He received the IASL's Distinguished Service Award in 1990. He was also very active in the Asian-Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver (APASL), of which he was President in 1980-1982. From 1996 to 2002, he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. He also contributed substantially to OMGE, of which he was Vice-President in 1982-1986. In 1998, he was awarded the Bockus Medal by the OMGE's Governing Council, and he gave the Bockus Lecture at the World Congress of Gastroenterology held in Vienna in 1998. He also received honors in his own country; the Emperor of Japan nominated him a Commander of the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun.

Kunio had an excellent command of English, which enabled him to edit several manuals and audio devices on medical English for Japanese physicians. He traveled a great deal, and visited 83 different countries, while himself welcoming many distinguished leaders in the fields of hepatology and gastroenterology to Chiba. He was a man with wide cultural interests, an expert fisherman, an able wildlife photographer, and an accomplished violinist who was capable of giving concerts of Mozart violin sonatas (when we were in New York together, he used to play the violin for me in the evenings).

He leaves an important scientific as well as human legacy. His son Hiroaki and daughter Keiko are both physicians. During the last months of his life, when he was bearing with fortitude the severe pain caused by his terminal condition, he was able to finish his autobiography, which has just been published by his son Hiroaki. He was an example to all of us, and he will not be easily forgotten by his many friends and students.

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