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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Membership Committee · 09/01/2023
    KEIJIRO SURUGA - In Memoriam
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Membership Committee · 09/01/2023
      @Membership Committee
      Please feel free to share any thoughts, memories and photos of Keijiro from our PAPS gatherings.
      Keijiro Suruga, M.D., age 102, a brilliant surgeon, great mentor and teacher passed away peacefully on March 21, 2023. He is widely considered as the Father of Pediatric Surgery in Japan and was a force for life and excellence that will always remain with us.

      He was born in Kanazawa, on July 23, 1920, and raised in a devout Protestant household. He remained a very diligent churchgoer and was deeply devoted to the work of Christianity all throughout his life. His father was an obstetrician and gynecologist, which motivated him to enter the University of Tokyo in 1941 and to follow in his father’s footsteps.

      Upon graduating from The University of Tokyo in 1944, he was drafted into military service at an army hospital and served his country for five months until the end of World War II. After World War II, he joined the 2nd Department of Surgery at the University of Tokyo, School of Medicine in 1945. After receiving 2 years of general surgical training, he was appointed by San-ikukai Hospital as the chief general surgeon at the remarkable young age of 27.

      San-ikukai Hospital had been completely destroyed during World War II. So, when Dr. Suruga first went there, the hospital was immeasurably damaged, and he was the only surgeon there. As it was a newly created surgical center, there were no patients initially, but eventually they came. Dr. Suruga worked tirelessly day and night with his charming smile, to treat them in a building that resembled a horse stable. Even in those harsh situations, because of his energy and persistent efforts, his Division of Surgery grew rapidly.

      Dr. Suruga, inspired by his deep Protestant faith, desperately wanted to take care of neonatal and pediatric surgery patients in order to care for the most vulnerable in society. However, there was no textbook on Pediatric Surgery in Japan at that time, so he went to the library at a US army hospital and fatefully found: the “Surgery of Infancy and Childhood: Its Principles and Techniques” by R.E. Gross that would forever change the course of his life and pediatric surgery in Japan.

      In 1953, Dr. Suruga successfully operated on an infant with jejunal atresia without general anesthesia, which was the first successfully treated neonatal surgical case in Japan. This was truly a sensational event that led to the dawn of neonatal surgery in Japan. Many surgeons who had an interest in pediatric surgery came to work at San-ikukai Hospital which became the epicenter of neonatal and pediatric surgery in Japan.

      Dr. Suruga recognized the necessity to organize pediatric surgeons into an association in order to develop this surgical specialty throughout Japan. However, he encountered major critical resistance from established general surgeons and obstetricians. Despite this resistance, the Japanese Society of Pediatric Surgeons (JSPS) was co-founded in 1964 through the tremendous efforts of Dr. Suruga and other prominent like-minded colleagues.

      In 1966, Dr. Suruga was appointed to the Department of Surgery at Juntendo University School of Medicine as a Professor of Pediatric Surgery. In his new position, he worked diligently to create the Department of Pediatric Surgery in 1968, and the first in Japan. This was a milestone moment in the creation and expansion of divisions/departments of Pediatric Surgery throughout Japan. It was at this time that I first met Dr. Suruga, and I joined his department as the first resident.

      Another of his outstanding contributions, as a pioneer of Pediatric Surgery, was his international activities. Dr. Suruga showed great vision in recognizing the necessity to communicate with western countries to learn the latest advanced knowledge and technology of Pediatric Surgery. In 1959, he visited Pittsburgh Children’s hospital and a number of other famous children’s hospitals. After he came back to Japan, he invited several distinguished overseas pediatric surgeons to Japan to further educate Japanese pediatric surgeons.

      Dr. Suruga recognized the real need for more communication and better education from advanced countries, like the United States. He went to Los Angeles to meet Dr. Stephen Gans to discuss this issue. Together they embarked on two projects to accomplish this goal.

      In 1965, the Journal of Pediatric Surgery was formed with Dr. Stephen Gans as the Editor-in-chief and Dr. Suruga as a member of the original Editorial Board as the editor for Asia. Dr. Suruga contributed to the Journal of Pediatric Surgery throughout his life. In the same year, they established the Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons (PAPS), which initially included the west coast of the USA (ending at the western part of the Rocky Mountains), South America, Pacific Rim countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. An annual meeting was established. Over the years, the areas expanded to many other Pacific Rim countries and all of the USA. Dr. Gans and Dr. Suruga were the main founding members, and both later received PAPS’ highest honor, the Herbert COE medal. The cumulative vision of Dr. Suruga and Dr. Gans significantly advanced the visibility and prominence of Pediatric Surgery throughout the world.

      Dr. Suruga organized the 6th PAPS Congress in Tokyo in 1972, which had the honor to have the presence of Prince Naruhito and Princess Michiko. This was a sensational epoch-making event in Japan, not only for pediatric surgery, but also for all surgical specialties, because there were very few international surgical meetings in Japan after World War II.

      Concurrently, with the 6th PAPS meeting, Dr. Suruga organized the first meeting of the Asian Associations of Pediatric Surgeons (AAPS), and he was the first president of AAPS. During this meeting, Dr. Suruga also proposed and initiated the idea to organize the World Federation of Associations of Pediatric Surgery (WOFAPS), which included other developing countries. The purpose was to help pediatric surgeons in developing countries be exposed to current pediatric surgical practices. WOFAPS was officially founded in 1974, and Dr. Suruga was one of the co-founding members. WOFAPS has grown into a large association which holds international scientific meetings every 3 years. This meeting has become highly successful in accomplishing the intent initially envisioned by Dr. Suruga.

      Dr. Suruga undertook missionary work and provided medical support for Zambia, Africa. He built the medical center for premature infants and the Neonatal Surgical Center of Zambia University at Lusaka in 1981, the first in Zambia.

      For all these remarkable international contributions, he was awarded the commendatóre from Italy in 1977, G. C.G. C.F (The order of Distinguished Service: First Division) from Zambia in 1984, and the Surgeon General Medallion from the Public Health Service U.S.A. in 1989.

      In 1986, at the age of 65, he retired as the Professor and Head of Pediatric Surgery at Juntendo University School of Medicine. Early retirement did not suit him, so he continued to work for almost 20 years as the Director of Katsunan Municipal Hospital. Astonishingly, the development of mobility issues could not slow him down, and at the age of 94, he opened a small clinic at his home named Noah where he continued to care for his patients until quite recently.

      Dr. Suruga was truly most proud of his marriage to his elegant wife, Miyoko, who passed away in 2022. They loved their son, Keiji and daughter, Ai. Per his wishes, he was laid to rest privately in the same style of funeral service as that of his beloved wife, Miyoko.

      Dr. Suruga’s extraordinary and tireless efforts and vision strengthened international communication and education in both developed and developing countries remarkably, leading to the evolution of JSPS, PAPS, AAPS, WOFAPS and the Journal of Pediatric Surgery! He was loved by all pediatric surgeons around the World because of his warm personality, sense of humor, engaging humility, and abundant humanitarianism.

      He will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the legends of Pediatric Surgery in the world, and the Father of Pediatric Surgery in Japan. We all miss him.
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