The First Step to Realize His Dream: Mr. Togo’s Decision to Earn a Public Health Degree

Hirokazu Togo
2017 Graduate Research
U.S. Affiliation: Cornell University, NY
Research Topic: Quantification of the risk of foodborne diseases and policy planning to reduce their social burden


Mr. Hirokazu Togo, a public servant specializing in food safety at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, took a leave of absence to study at Cornell University in New York State.

After receiving advice from a work supervisor, Mr. Togo became interested in pursuing a masters’ degree in public health during a training visit in 2013 to Los Angeles for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. “I wanted to take on the challenge, but I lacked the required English skills and financial resources. I thought it wasn’t for me, so I did not take any particular action,” Mr. Togo recalls. However, after his mother’s death, which occurred the following year, his feelings changed. “I realized that life is short, and I felt that I should try what I want to pursue, rather than remain where I was being afraid of failure.”

Public Health Symposium

Every day, Mr. Togo is working hard on all his assignments and surveys since his supervisors and colleagues at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have high hopes that he will contribute back to their organization to apply his learning and experiences from the U.S. During the previous semester, he partnered with an American student to study school meal programs. Mr. Togo found that many American schools provided breakfast to students and children from low-income households were eligible for receiving free meals to ensure that they can have a balanced breakfast. “A challenge was that when free breakfast was only provided to certain children, those children did not use the school breakfast service because they did not want others to know that they were a part of the special assistance program – which may become a reason for peers to bully them. We therefore proposed a pilot project to provide free breakfast to all children, and two schools started implementing the project. At present, we are monitoring the impacts.” Mr. Togo explains.During his studies, Mr. Togo was surprised to discover that faculty and students are highly motivated and sincerely desire to change the world for the better. “When I was in Japan, I only thought about Japan and Tokyo, but now I have a global perspective and can see things from various angles,” Mr. Togo remarks.

While conducting his studies, Mr. Togo’s feelings about his own English skills changed. “My English is poor compared to native English speakers, but I realized that I have strengths that are characteristic to the Japanese people, such as being attentive to detail and extraordinarily hardworking. As a result, I got high marks in class and was chosen as a teaching assistant this semester. Also, we presented our report on our school breakfast program at an in-class presentation competition and won the first prize,” Mr. Togo stated with confidence. Rather than using his English ability as an excuse, Mr. Togo gathered courage and fully utilized his strengths to take his first step in realizing his dreams. Consequently, now, a new world is opening up for him.

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