Student Snapshot

Student Snapshot

You’ve got an M.D., and you’re now studying public health. Why?

In 2003, a Japanese nonprofit organization called the Organization of Support for Medical Education in Asia and Africa chose me to go to Niger as a cooperative medical worker. I went to a remote hospital located about 780 kilometers from the capital city, Niamey. Only one surgeon worked in this hospital, Dr. Tanigaki, who had worked in Niger for 20 years and performed over a thousand surgeries each year. In Niger, I performed surgeries alongside Dr. Tanigaki. I went to a lot of hospitals and clinics in the area. The situation in the sub-Saharan countries was my turning point—when I decided I wanted to do public health.

Why was it a turning point?

In the rural areas of Niger, there are a lot of diseases such as diarrhea, acute respiratory diseases, and malaria. Even today, many children die from these diseases. It was a shock for me.

You wanted to do something about it?

Yes. If we can approach these diseases with public health methods, I think that we can improve this miserable situation.

Why did you come to the U.S. to study public health?

In Japan, the field of public health is a part of medicine, so the scale of public health is smaller than in the U.S. The environment of study is better here [in the U.S.] than it is in Japan, too. In Japan the budget and staff for public health are much more limited. It is also good for me because I am in the field of international health, so it is necessary to go abroad to study and communicate in a foreign language, such as English.

In addition to being a student here at the University of Michigan, you run marathons.

I’ve run 18 marathons. In October, I ran the Detroit marathon, my 19th marathon. I finished in 5 hours, 11 minutes.

That’s almost 500 miles worth of running!

When I began to run, my limit was only five kilometers. My first marathon was in 1989, when I was 20 years old. My personal best is two hours, 47 minutes, nine seconds, but recently, it took me over six hours to complete the race. I wasn’t disappointed in this time, though, because now I run for fun, exercise, and my health. I run having a conversation with another me.

Photo by Peter Smith.

Interview by Hannah Madoff, a student in the University of Michigan Residential College.

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Name: Takayuki “Taka” Shimizu
Age: 38
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
SPH Degree Program: M.P.H. in Epidemiology and International Health
Graduating Class: 2007
Previous Degrees: Bachelor of Engineering, Kyoto University, 1992; M.D., University of Tokyo, 1999