Akira Iizuka disagrees with those friends who have called his career path “bizarre.” Rather, its progression—from college he joined Japan’s Foreign Ministry service, then enrolled in medical school in Tokyo, and now is studying at the Bloomberg School during a yearlong leave of absence from medical school— reflects an evolving understanding, he says, of what’s needed to plan and execute effective community public health interventions. While serving in Japan’s embassy in Paris, Iizuka grappled with global health issues, including international efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Then, as a medical student based in Tokyo, he joined post-disaster reconstruction efforts in Wakuya, a rural town in the Tohoku region where the residents’ resilience left a lasting impression on him. “Through my Wakuya experiences, I saw how difficult and delicate ‘helping others’ was,” he says. This realization fueled his desire to study approaches to community health, and so he applied to the Bloomberg School. With keen interests in nutrition and environmental preservation, Iizuka has watched as rural Japan’s wholesome and traditional diet becomes increasingly threatened by international interests and obesity-related health problems. Eventually, he hopes to return to work as a physician in an underserved area of Japan, promoting healthy behaviors with an emphasis on prevention and education.
Resident Physician, Yokote Municipal Hospital, Akita