From Japan to Southeast Asia:
Otorhinolaryngologist “Dr. Bala’s” Challenge

Dr. Kazuhiro Omura, an Otorhinolaryngologist at the Jikei University School of Medicine, has conducted one of the world’s most cases of endoscopic surgery for treatment of nasal tumors. Aiming to become “the world’s best surgeon,” he continuously enhances his skills while dedicating himself to sharing cutting-edge surgical techniques in Laos, Cambodia, and other Southeast Asian countries, for over 15 years. Dr. Omura’s challenge goes beyond just transferring skills; he is shining a new light on medical practice in Southeast Asia.

Supporting healthcare in Southeast Asia as “Dr. Bala”

Raised by a father who was a doctor and a mother who was a pharmacist, Dr. Omura naturally gravitated towards a career in medicine. Initially interested in terminal care, he decided to become a surgical oncologist after hearing various doctors’ stories. “My goal is to become the kind of doctor who will be trusted to conduct the surgery of someone special to me, such as my best friend's parents. This guiding principle has never changed,” says Dr. Omura.

He initiated his international collaboration in 2007, joining an international NGO which provided medical support to local hospitals in Southeast Asia, with a focus on Myanmar. Despite challenging conditions with inadequate medical equipment and occasional power outages, Dr. Omura passionately engaged in treatments and surgeries. Local medical staff and patients affectionately called him “Bala,” the Burmese word for “strong person.” This signaled the “birth” of “Dr. Bala.”

Since then, he has been visiting various Southeast Asian countries, continuing his own commitment of dedicating one week per year to local medical support. During his visit, Dr. Omura gathers patients and performs three to four surgeries per day. While conducting endoscopic surgery at local hospitals, he teaches high-level medical techniques to surgeons from various countries. “I clearly remember a patient from Laos who was said to be beyond help. This patient made a tremendous effort to come all the way from a rural area, and we managed to treat him successfully through surgery. In Cambodia, I once treated a patient who had undergone surgery eight times without success. Many patients are crying in despair, unable to receive treatment. Helping them through surgery is immensely fulfilling,” Dr. Omura reflects.

Addressing local medical issues

A major issue with medical activities in Southeast Asia, as Dr. Omura notes, is often the lack of sufficient medical equipment and facilities. However, despite these limitations, treatment and surgeries must proceed. “Doctors in Southeast Asia want to perform surgeries with adequate medical equipment. The inability to make this happen frustrates me sometimes,” Dr. Omura expresses. During these tough conditions, support from Japanese companies has been invaluable.
“When we started providing medical support in Laos, being able to borrow medical equipment from Olympus was a huge help,” Dr. Omura recalls. “My request to these companies is to continue producing high-quality ‘Made in Japan’ products. Delivering high-level equipment is crucial for both doctors and patients,” he asserts.

Additionally, Dr. Omura points out the significant role of Olympus’s training center, where doctors can learn endoscopic techniques. “By delivering high level skills to doctors in Asia, we can resolve the issues of both the lack of medical techniques and educational poverty.” Dr. Omura believes.

The joy from “running alongside” local doctors

The activities that Dr. Omura has continued to improve medical techniques in Southeast Asia has been showing steady results. “I feel like I’m running alongside the local doctors, and we are growing together. I’ve known them for 15 years, and they are completely different from when we started. It’s incredibly satisfying to see their development,” he shares. Moving forward, Dr. Omura aims to conduct more advanced surgeries and share these techniques with other doctors, striving further to be a role model for the local doctors.

Currently, requests to learn Dr. Omura’s surgical techniques are coming from all over the world, not just Southeast Asia. In 2022 and 2023, he was invited to and visited ten countries and cities, including Dubai, Iraq, and Bulgaria. “Ultimately, I want to change the world for the better - it might sound ambitious, but I truly believe that I can.”

Driven by strong convictions and aspirations, Dr. Omura’s quest to enhance global medical standards continues.