Masayuki Amagai Dean, Keio University School of Medicine (Title at that time)
Professor, Department of Dermatology
Yoichi Kitayama Guest Professor (Part-time), Faculty of Environment and Information Studies,
Yohko Watanabe Professor, Keio University Art Center
Vice Director, Keio Museum Commons
(Names listed in alphabetical order by last name)
Amagai: I was hoping to meet and talk in person, but due to the recent state of emergency, we’ve had to move the discussion online.
This is my fourth year as dean. For some time now, I have wondered if it might be possible to incorporate a little artistic spirit into the world of medical care and education. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has heightened this desire, as the campus and hospital have become increasingly sterile. That sets the scene for our conversation today.
Each of us has a different background, and I hope that this talk will lead to ideas that we might never have hit upon alone.
May I ask you to introduce yourselves? I’d like to start with Faculty of Environment and Information Studies Guest Professor Yoichi Kitayama, who is also a member of the Gospellers.
I joined an a cappella club at Waseda University during my third year, and from then on, singing practice took up all of my time. This made it hard to go to campus, but somehow I still managed to graduate.
When I joined the Gospellers, I was just filling in, so I thought I would just enjoy the music with the Gospellers for a while and then go back to my lab eventually. But as it turned out, I never did go back.
Amagai: So that’s what happened. I’d like to talk more about this later, but next I’d like to turn to Professor Watanabe.
We put up very large photos—about 2 meters tall by 1 meter wide—on the outer glass wall of the Institute of Integrated Medical Research building, allowing people walking outside to see them.
The first place we went to shoot for this project was the University Hospital Annex, a building built in the early Showa period. We were able to photograph this building, which was originally used as a hospital ward, just as it was being torn down. Since then, whenever a building is going to be demolished, I am always asked to come and photograph it.
Unlike Keio’s other campuses, Shinanomachi is also home to a hospital. This means we can't take any pictures when patients are present. Buildings are interesting in that once they are empty, they become dead spaces. The timing is extremely difficult to get right because shooting is limited to the moments just before everything in a building gets removed.
Amagai: In “The Coming and Going of Keio University Shinanomachi Campus,” the buildings were illuminated in the frame of the photograph, and the light and shadows came together to make very powerful images. The space where the photos were displayed in the Institute of Integrated Medical Research was exactly what I wanted at Shinanomachi Campus—a space where people could come and go as usual, but when they happened to look around, they encountered a piece of art that made a subtle impression on them.
I think the fact that you created a space that facilitated such daily encounters at Shinanomachi Campus had a huge impact on many people.
I vividly remember when you were spreading out the photos on the floor, and just when I walked by, I was instantly drawn in by your smile and enveloping warmth.
Watanabe: Speaking of my relationship with hospitals, there’s one more thing I’d like to mention. I lost my mother last year. When she passed away, we didn't even know if she had tested positive or negative for COVID-19. I had to wait outside the hospital room when the ventilator was removed. This experience made me even more eager to speak more with you, Professor Amagai, since you are working on the front lines of medicine.
Someone close to me is currently hospitalized with a brain tumor, and I just learned that Professor Kitayama has also suffered from a brain tumor as well. It feels like fate that I am able to speak with you both today.
Amagai: Professor Watanabe mentioned brain tumors, so Professor Kitayama, could you share with us your thoughts, what your experience has taught you, and your expectations for medical professionals?
I once read a book about a brain scientist who had a stroke and recovered from having lost his memory and the ability to count and thought something similar was happening to me.
I love being able to do things that I couldn’t do before, so I feel that I have been given many such moments like this in my life.
Amagai: Some say that hospitals should be turned into corporations to become more efficient, but what would that lead to under the current insurance system? Hospitals might only provide treatments that are profitable. I am concerned about introducing a profit motive into the world of healthcare.
Kitayama: For example, with medical specialization, it’s efficient to rely on a specialist to do something a doctor might be unable to do. But I think there are many instances in society at large where the original reason for this division of labor has been forgotten, which in turn makes things more complicated. Even in the fundamental fields of medicine, things that are happening now are totally different from what was originally envisioned. From my point of view, I wish things could be a little more integrated...