Obituary: Dr Shunichi Araki

Expert in occupational medicine and public health. Born in Yokohama, Japan, on March 8, 1942. Died of ischemic heart disease in Tokyo, Japan, on August 1, 2018, at age 76.

Dr. Shunichi Araki began his career as an internal physician after graduating from the Faculty of Medicine at The University of Tokyo in 1966. He was appointed as an instructor in the Department of Public Health at The University of Tokyo, in 1974, and later spent 1 year, starting July 1976, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as a British Council Scholar. There he finished his Master of Science degree (occupational medicine) in August 1977.

After returning to Japan, Dr. Araki was appointed as an associate professor in the Department of Public Health at the Tohoku University Faculty of Medicine (from January 1978) and then as a professor in the Department of Public Health and Hygiene at Oita Medical College. From April 1987 to March 2001, he served as a professor and as chairman of the Graduate School and Faculty of Medicine at The University of Tokyo. During that period, he was also appointed as director general of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Japan (JNIOSH), from April 2000.

After he retired from JNIOSH in March 2009, he served as a director for two public institutions: the Saitama Occupational Health Promotion Center of the Japan Labour Health and Welfare Organization and Espoir Tokorozawa Geriatric Health Care Institution. During that time, he was appointed as a visiting and adjunct professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, awarded a Diploma of Industrial Health (Royal College of Physicians of London and Royal College of Surgeons of England), and was an associate in the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (Royal College of Physicians of London). He was also appointed as a fellow of Collegium Ramazzini in 1990, and then as its emeritus fellow in 2011. In 2008, he served as a delegate for the first World Summit on Safety and Health at Work (International Labour Organization).

According to the website of The Social Medicine Promotion Foundation, founded by Dr. Araki in 2014 (http://plaza.umin.ac.jp/smpf/index.html), his English-language first-author original publications since graduation from university were mainly on: (1) subclinical neurophysiological effects and methods in occupational and environmental health; e.g., peripheral nerve conduction, evoked potentials, and event-related potential (P300) studies in lead workers; (2) mobilization of lead and other metals into the plasma and urine by calcium disodium ethylenediamine tetraacetate (CaEDTA), an effective chelating agent; (3) assessment of the physical burden of chelatable lead in relation to blood lead in workers exposed to lead, as well as in unexposed people; (4) renal excretory mechanisms of lead, other metals, and organic substances into human urine; and (5) adjustments of urinary concentrations of those metals and substances into urinary volume, also in humans. Apart from those, together with his young colleagues and doctoral students, he published a wide variety of epidemiological, psychosomatic, and immunological papers in occupational, environmental, and community health.

In 1991, he organized two international symposia at The University of Tokyo: (1) the 4th Symposium on Neurobehavioral Methods and Effects in Occupational and Environmental Health, co-organized with the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), World Health Organization, and International Labour Organization, and (2) the 12th International Symposium of The University of Tokyo, entitled, Behavioral Medicine: Biobehavioral Approach to Health and Illness. The two symposium proceedings were published as monographs by Academic Press (1994) and Elsevier Publishers (1992), respectively. Dr. Araki served as chairman of the ICOH Scientific Committee on Neurotoxicology and Psychophysiology (1993–2000), editor-in-chief of Industrial Health (2000–2009) and associate editor of Environmental Research (from 1990), the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (1992–2018), and the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine (1993–1998). He also served as an honorary director of the Sanlian Accident Prevention Institute in China (1991–2018).

During Dr. Araki’s time as chair of the Department of Public Health of the Graduate School of Medicine at The University of Tokyo, until 2001 (in the last year he was an adjunct position), he educated approximately 100 medical students on public health each year, and supervised on average eight postgraduate students in the program for the degree of Doctor of Medical Sciences (DMSc). Among his doctoral students, six became professors at Kyoto University and three at another Japanese national university, a private university, and a university in China. One was invited to be director of a governmental research institution, two opened medical clinics, and two became dental practitioners. He left two great works to his colleagues in Japan: Occupational Medicine (Science-sha, Tokyo, 1981), which covered clinical and fundamental aspects of work-related diseases based on his experience as a physician, with a history of occupational medicine and public health since the era of Ramazzini. This work effectively validated the importance of the approach by workers who suffered from illnesses. He also published Principles of Social Medicine (Polish Work, Tokyo, 2017), which demonstrated his devotion to research in this field throughout his academic and professional, and served as a testament to his life’s achievements.

I worked with Dr. Araki from 1982 until he retired from The University of Tokyo, and I later invited him to be a visiting professor at Mie University (2003–2009), and then Juntendo University (2009–2018), when I became a professor at these universities. I had asked him to pass his superb knowledge and acumen down to the next generation. On behalf of all students of Dr. Shunichi Araki, I hope that his soul will rest in peace.

 

Written by Kazuhito Yokoyama

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