Japanese eye doctor wins Ramon Magsaysay Award
By Robina Asido
A 58 year-old Japanese ophthalmologist is one of the four recipients of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award Wednesday.
In a virtual zoom announcement, the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation named Tadashi Hattori, a Japanese ophthalmologist and humanitarian who has committed his time and resources in providing free eye surgeries in Vietnam.
Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation chairman Aurelio Montinola III said Hattori helped restore the vision of thousands of visually impared patients in remote and disadvantaged areas of Vietnam."
"We honor him for his resolute commitment in helping thousands of Vietnamese people through his philanthropic medical efforts and for demonstrating the life changing in fact of dedicating once time talent and treasures in the service of others," he said.
The foundation said Tadashi who was born in Osaka in 1964 visited Hanoi for the first time at the invitation of a Vietnamese doctor in 2002 where cataract blindness was prevalent.
"To date, Hattori and his team of Vietnamese doctors have treated more than 20,000 patients. Driven, Hattori would perform 40 to 50 cataract operations or six to eight vitrectomies per day. He has trained more than thirty Vietnamese doctors who can now perform sophisticated eye operations, and he has donated or facilitated the donation of medical equipment to local hospitals," the foundation said.
"Cognizant that the need is greatest in the rural areas, he has led medical missions with a team of Vietnamese doctors, giving free treatments and performing surgeries for thousands of people," it added.
It also noted that Hattori founded the Asia-Pacific Prevention of Blindness Association (APBA) in 2005 to support and upscale his humanitarian work.
In 2014, with investors and medical colleagues, he founded the Japan International Eye Hospital in Hanoi, one at par with Japan’s top ophthalmic hospitals, to serve paying patients as a way of building a sustainable fund for free outreach programs.
"Hattori is a highly skilled practitioner, currently regarded as one of Japan’s leading surgeons in vitrectomy and phaco surgery. Even if he is called “the man with the golden hands” because of his expertise as a surgeon, he insists that it is still the heart that matters most. Hattori is the epitome of a professional that has demonstrated the highest form of individual social responsibility," the foundation stated.
As he explains his passion to help, Hattori says "Whether people can see or not decisively affects their lives. Even just healing one eye may make it possible for someone to attend a school or go back to work. It can give relief to family members who have been looking after an affected person. I can’t turn my back on people who are on the verge of losing their sight just because they lack the money to pay for treatment. My starting point as a doctor is to help people.”
"A doctor should have not only the skills but also the heart. That’s why my motto is, ‘Treat your patients as your parents," he added.
Another Ramon Magsaysay Awardee who will receive the "Asia's premier price and highest honor" is pediatrician Bernadette Madrid, a Filipino children's rights and child protection crusader.
Montinola said Madrid has been at the forefront in providing medical, legal and psychosocial care to children and women who are victims of abuse.
"We are honoring her for her admirable commitment in championing the rights of the most vulnerable and her for her transformative work in integrating child protection into the health infrastructure in the Philippines," he said.
Another medical practitioner who will be awarded is Sotheara Chhim, a mental health advocate from Cambodia who "has been instrumental in localizing and nuancing the approach in addressing and healing those with mental health issues through Baksbat, a Cambodian trauma syndrome akin to post traumatic stress disorder."
"We are honoring him for his efforts for providing psychological and mental care to Cambodians at the grass roots level for more than 20 years through the transcultural, psychosocial organization Cambodia," said Montinola.
Also awarded for emerging leadership is Gary Bencheghib, an anti-plastic pollution warrior who works resiliently to address plastic pollution in Indonesia.
"We are honoring him with the emerging leadership award for his resilient work in addressing plastic pollution in his adopted country and for being an outstanding example of leadership transcending age and borders," the RMAF chairman said.
All awardees will have their public lectures from September to November 2022, while the 64th Ramon Magsaysay Award presentation ceremonies which will be attended by the four awardees on Nov. 30, 2022, will be live streamed from Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila. DMS