Professor Shinzo Kato, Faculty of Nursing and Medical Care, Keio University

Spirituality in medicine

It is said that in highly specialized medical settings, the emphasis on evidence (scientific basis) is so great that the focus is on illness rather than the patient himself. Under such circumstances, Professor Shinzo Kato of the Faculty of Nursing and Medical Care at Keio University regularly holds a “liver disease class” for patients with liver disease and a “Gottani Hot Pot Party” as a place for patients with chronic diseases to talk with each other while enjoying delicious food. He has been constantly pursuing the essence of medical care and working on patient-centered medical care. In recent years, as a founding member of the “Meeting for the Solidarity of Medical Professionals with Faith,” he has been focusing on the spread of spiritual care. We talked to Professor Kato about the patient-centered medical care as well as the relationship between medical care and spirituality.

──What made you specialize in liver disease?

I was born in a family of doctors going back eight generations. Thus, going to medical school was more natural than special for me. The reason for me to specialize in liver disease was that I developed hepatitis B when I was 20 years old. Through my hospital stay, I was able to have a patient’s perspective about the illness and the attitude of the medical staff. I also noticed that having an illness has various social difficulties such as marriage and employment. These experiences and awareness are the starting point for the patient-centered medical care.
After graduating, I wanted to study liver disease, so I entered the Department of Gastroenterology at Keio University Hospital. I really wanted to study viral hepatitis, but my boss specialized in alcoholic hepatitis, so I decided to go there as well.
Looking back, there was a meaning behind my choice. Among liver diseases, alcoholism is a disease with a strong aspect of lifestyle-related diseases in the sense that it is difficult to change habits even if one thinks it is bad. It is the same as lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and dyslipidemia. At the time, we did not use the word lifestyle-related disease. However, from early on, I was interested in it.