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Health News of Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Source: Dennis Moore

90th Anniversary symposium of Dr. Hideyo Noguchi’s arrival in Ghana

This year marks the ninetieth anniversary of the arrival Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, a renowned Japanese Scientist, in the then Gold Coast (Ghana). The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, located on the University of Ghana campus at Legon, was establishment in 1979 as a gift from the Government and People of Japan in honour of this great scientist and humanitarian.

In commemoration of this anniversary, a symposium was organized in Dr. Noguchi’s honour and as a reminder of the friendship between Ghana and Japan. Dr. Hideyo Noguchi was born in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, in 1876 to a very poor farming couple. At the tender age of one and half years, he burned the fingers on his left hand and this left him severely incapacitated.

This notwithstanding, the young Noguchi overcame this and other challenges studied hard and became a physician and world-renowned researcher. He moved to the United States of America in 1900 and was awarded the renowned Rockefeller Fellowship to conduct research in infectious diseases.

Dr. Noguchi also worked in Europe and South America and made significant discoveries in his research into various infectious diseases, including Syphilis and Yellow Fever. As testament to his success as a researcher, Dr. Noguchi was nominated nine times for the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine and published over 100 scientific papers.

In 1927, Dr. Noguchi came to the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) to further his research into Yellow Fever in collaboration with local staff at the now Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. Unfortunately, Dr. Noguchi fell victim to this disease seven months later and this resulted in his untimely death at the then European Hospital (now Ridge Hospital) at the age of 51 years.

Due to his outstanding achievements and great humanitarian spirit, he has become the pride of Japan and a pioneer of international cooperation.

Dr. Noguchi’s arrival in Ghana 90 years ago commenced the engagement between Ghana and Japan in medical research. His will and passion for international cooperation and medical research have been passed on from generation to generation after his death.

The establishment of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), at the University of Ghana is one major landmark that testifies to this. Since then, many health-related projects have been executed between the two countries and currently, the cooperation which transcends the borders of Ghana has expanded to include the fields of education and agriculture, as well as infrastructural development.

NMIMR itself has seen expansion and emerged as a leading global biomedical Institute for prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging diseases. Currently, a state-of-the-art facility for infectious diseases is being constructed as part of the expansion to place NMIMR on a higher pedestal to play its role in health and biomedical research effectively.

The two day symposium brought together academia, policy makers , research collaborators and business partners to discuss and share information on the achievements of this great legacy.

The opening ceremony was graced by the Deputy Minister of Health Mr. Kingsley Aboagye-Gyedu, who represented the Minister for Health. He said Ghana will forever remain grateful to Dr. Hideyo Noguchi for his dedication and commitment not only to Ghana but the world at large. He again stated that Dr. Noguchi’s arrival in Ghana in 1927 brought relief to the people of Ghana with his work, interest and dedication in the area of yellow fever.

“Ever since this, the Ghana-Japan relation has been growing from strength to strength and we are grateful for that as a country,” he reiterated. He said the Japanese Government had assisted the country in the scaling up of CHIPS implementation, a concept for the attainment of the Universal Health coverage. “The Japanese government has also been supporting Ghana towards the eradication of Guinea worm, HIV/AIDS prevention and control, and human resource for health development,” he said.

Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana (UG), said the symposium would build on the existing dynamic culture between UG and Japan. He said NMIMR had built on the legacy of Dr. Noguchi and therefore lauded Dr. Noguchi for living his life for humanity.

His Excellency Mr. Kaoru Yoshimura, the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, said it was his hope that the collaboration in research areas between Japan and Ghana will continue to be the pivot of the relationship between the two countries.

Mr. Hirofumi Hoshi, the Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), reviewed long standing cooperation since 1969 and showed his expectation for continuous collaboration both in research and public health.

Prof. Takashi Kurata, Program officer of Japan Agency for Medical Research Development (AMED), stated their contribution to the development of research field not only in Ghana but also West-Africa and beyond through the strong support of NMIMR.

Professor Kwabena Mante Bosompem, Director of NMIMR in his remarks mentioned that the symposium has provided the platform for Japanese and other research collaborators of NMIMR to share scientific results, evidence-based information and knowledge, best practices and the advances made in various fields of scientific research, pathogen detection, disease diagnosis, disease management and control.

The symposium also sought to share information about the achievements of the Institute and the various partnerships it has developed with both local and international health promoting institutions. On stepping forward into the future he pointed out that the Institute should take advantage of opportunities to becoming a sustainable hub for research radiating networks.

At the opening, there were two keynote lectures on the topics: “Dr. Hideyo Noguchi and Complement; from Cobra Venom factor to Lectin Complement Pathway”, delivered by Prof. Teizo Fujita, President, Fukushima Prefectural General Hygiene Institute, Fukushima Medical University, Fukushima and “A Great Scientist, Dr. Hideyo Noguchi - from Inawashiro to Accra”, delivered by Ms. Yukiko Noguchi from the Hideyo Noguchi Memorial Foundation, Fukushima.

The Symposium with over 270 attendees had the theme : “Arrival of Dr Hideyo Noguchi in the Gold Coast: 90 Years on” with seven scientific sessions which included Historical Perspectives of the Collaboration between Japan and Ghana;

Infectious diseases research; Advancing Public Health; and Panel Discussions on – Contributions of the NMIMR and partners to regional preparedness for global health risks, threats and emergencies, Scientific collaborations and socio-cultural perspectives, and NMIMR Research achievements impacting Ghana, the West African Sub-region and beyond.

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