Dr. Morio Kasai, one of the leading world’s surgeon-scientists, and a founding member of the Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons, died on December 8th 2008 at the age of 86.
Dr. Kasai was born in Aomori Prefecture, located at the north end of the main island of Japan, in 1922. He graduated from the Tohoku University School of Medicine in 1947. In 1948 he completed his internship, and joined the 2nd Department of Surgery, Tohoku University School of Medicine.
He was appointed Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor and Chief of the 2nd Department of Surgery Tohoku University School of Medicine in 1953, in 1960, and in 1963, respectively.
From 1959 to 1960 he worked as a research fellow of Professor Charles Everett Koop at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, USA.
He served as the Director of the Tohoku University Hospital and Professor of the 2nd Department of Surgery from 1981 to 1986, when he retired from Tohoku University and was appointed Professor Emeritus. He then worked as the Director of the NTT Tohoku Hospital until 1993. During the period in which Dr. Kasai worked in the Tohoku University Hospital, numerous pediatric surgeons from all over the world visited him.
Dr. Kasai’s most notable work was the development of the hepatic-portoenterostomy, for biliary atresia in 1955. The scientific principles underlying this operation were groundbreaking, and brought him great renown. However, he and his group always used the medical term, “hepatic-portoenterostomy”, rather than the eponym “Kasai Procedure”, which was almost universally used by others. This was thought to be a presentation of his modest character.
Besides his major contribution in biliary atresia, as one of the pioneering Pediatric Surgeons in Japan he made great contribution in the areas of general pediatric surgery, neonatal surgery, pediatric surgical nutrition, and pediatric surgical oncology. He was also one of the most famous surgeons in Japan in the field of adult mediastinal and esophageal surgery.
Among the numerous international awards that Dr. Kasai received for his exceptional contributions were:
He was a founding member of a number of prominent medical societies, including:
Dr. Kasai also founded the Japanese Society of Biliary Atresia in 1976.
This scientific meeting is held on a yearly basis, and promotes the study of biliary atresia from a variety of aspects. This society started the Japanese Registry of Biliary Atresia in 1989, and data on more than 2,000 patients with biliary atresia have been collected. He also founded the International Sendai Symposium of Biliary Atresia, which was initiated in 1976, with many international participants. This symposium was held in 1981, in 1986, in 1991,and in 1996 in Sendai, and made enormous contribution towards improving the outcome of biliary atresia surgery.
Dr. Kasai gave to his disciples a personally hand-written copy of the word “Soshin”, simple mind, when they left his department after completing surgical training. He believed that a surgeon should keep a simple and modest mind, and that too much decoration was of no use for a good surgeon. He himself was really a man of modesty.
His love of mountaineering started when he was a medical student, and he gained fame as the director of the first climbing team of Nyainquntanglha Mountain, the highest peak of the Tibetan Plateau (7,162m).
He was suffered a stroke in 1999, and subsequently spent almost nine years in rehabilitation. While his later life was difficult for him, hugging his grandchildren brought him extreme joy. He was predeceased by two former wives, but survived by a third. Three sons and two daughters also survived him. He passed away peacefully surrounded by his large family, bosom friends, and numerous disciples.