One-Person Think-Tank BK-Yoo

Why I started this blog

2020-05-20 Wednesday

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this first essay. After introducing my unique background, I would like to explain my reasons for starting this blog. My resume and selected publications’ abstracts are posted in this blog for your reference.

Being born and raised in Japan, I first became a physician to take over a small hospital, located in Osaka-fu, which my parents (both physicians) founded approximately fifty years ago. Working as a medical resident, I became interested in studying health economics and health policy, which seemed to help maintain my parents’ hospital (which later became a clinic, ceasing inpatient service).

Due to the absence of a graduate program to study health economics/policy in Japan, I went to the United States (US) to enroll in a Master’s program at the Harvard University and then a PhD program at the Johns Hopkins University. As far as I know, I became the first MD/ PhD (health economics) among more than 300,000 physicians in Japan. My original career plan was to seek a full-time academic position in Japan upon the completion of my PhD in the US.

Changing this original career plan substantially, I lived in the US for 25 years, working for five academic institutions and one federal agency (the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) as a health economist. I kept postponing my return to Japan, partly to have more research experience in the US and partly to learn more about the fundamental causes that have made the US markedly different from other nation-states, e.g., Japan.

In April 2020, I accepted a professor position at a university in Japan after resigning my tenured position at the University of California (UC), Davis. Why did I resign my position at UC Davis? I wanted to start “social experiments” at various levels in Japan and other East Asian countries. In my definition, “social experiments” are exemplified by a micro-level community intervention to change health behavior (e.g., diet and physical activity), a macro-level political system (e.g., the US being different from other nation-states), and a historical evolution of an economic system (e.g., capitalism).

Working as a medical resident in Japan, I suspected that studying medicine (as a natural science) alone would not be enough to maintain my own clinic (that I had planned to take over from my parents). Thereafter, I began to study health economics (as a social science) to improve the broader health insurance system in Japan, which would help maintain all clinics and hospitals. In the past few years, I have studied “theater” (as a humanity science) in order to solve health-related behavior problems that health economics theory (e.g., a monetary incentive will help obese people to lose their weight) has seriously failed thus far. Since combining “theater” with “health economics” is a very novel idea, I will explain in more details later in another essay.

This blog is entitled “One-Person Think-Tank BK-Yoo.” It includes “Think-Tank,” because this blog aims to propose numerous ideas that could be tested by a real-world intervention or policy. While it may sound odd and ambitious, it is a “One-Person” Think-tank since my cross-disciplinary background (including natural, social and humanity sciences) will generate unique insights. Also, as a health economist, my past publications include broad aeras such as individual behaviors to respond to health risks regarding infectious diseases (e.g., pandemic and seasonal influenza) and chronic diseases, telehealth (remote medicine), healthcare workforce, health insurance systems, long term care, and internal comparison of health care systems.

To the best of my knowledge, there are less than five researchers in the world who have a MD (clinical experience as a physician), a PhD (health economics), more than 10 papers in the field of infectious disease (including mathematical modeling of a pandemic), and working experience as a prevention effectiveness fellow/health economist at the US CDC. Fortunately, I am one of them as of 2020 and was probably the only one in the world in 2010. This may be the reason why I was selected as one of the finalist-candidates for a tenure-track professor position by the Department of Population Health, Harvard Medical School in 2010. Unfortunately, I was not offered a job by the Harvard Medical School then.

While it is a global-scale tragedy, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has appeared to help everyone realize how vulnerable our society is. In my view, such vulnerability is partly caused by the COVID-19 (e.g., declined consumption due to a lockdown), but mainly caused by the recent social changes that started around the 1970’s (e.g., declined capacities of public sector, including health care sector) . To address such vulnerability, the purpose of this blog is to propose my ideas to construct an alternative and more robust society in terms of economics and politics.

One of these ideas is to prepare for a North East Asia Economic Community (NEAEC), following the European Union (EU) and the US. This is why this blog includes four languages, i.e., Japanese, Korean, Chinese and English.

As another example of these ideas, I plan to post my thoughts in order to help formulate policies to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic based on my past related research experiences. For highly technical contents like the specific measures against the COVID-19, I will use only two languages of English and Japanese.
Hopefully my small efforts in this blog will lead to something that lasts long-term at a large scale.

(2020-05-20 23:00)