Visiting scholar to tackle family health history, risk management

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
By Alissa Kocer

CAGPM has welcomed a new face on campus; Dr. Tomoharu Tokutomi is a visiting scholar from Iwate Medical University in Morioka, Iwate, Japan. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Genetics and the Assistant Department Head in the Division of Innovation and Education at Iwate Medical University.

Tomoharu Tokutomi and Lori OrlandoTokutomi arrived in September and will be at Duke until March 2019. He chose to come to Duke to learn from Lori Orlando about family health history and risk management, including tool development and data collection and management.

“Meeting Lori Orlando, who reviewed my paper published in BMC Medical Genetics, was crucial,” Tokutomi said. “Thanks to her advice and comments, I became more interested in family health history.” He is particularly interested in applied genomics and precision medicine and combining high-quality family health history and polygenic risk scores to help with risk assessment.

His interest in family health history and risk management started while he working as the Division Surgeon of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) from 2010 – 2012. In 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit off the Pacific coast of Tohoku and triggered 133-foot-tall tsunami waves that caused massive destruction in the Iwate Prefecture. Tokutomi was responsible for the health management of members dispatched from the jurisdiction and for the control of the medical corps.

After leaving that post, he worked as a medical geneticist and pediatrician at the Iwate Medical University and researched the development of a family health history tool. He also work on the Tohoku Medical Megabank (TMM) project, which was founded to establish an advanced medical system to help with reconstruction after the earthquake. The organization will develop a biobank that combines medical and genome information during the process of rebuilding the community medical system and supporting health and welfare in the Tohoku area.

While he’s here, Tokutomi plans to use tools like MeTree on thousands of people to adequately assess risks in the TMM project and to contribute to the promotion of personalized medicine for the earthquake disaster victims in the Tohoku region.

“I would like to contribute to the promotion of personalized medicine among U.S. residents with Asian origins through collaborative research between Duke University and the Iwate Medical University and also compare environmental factors between the U.S. and Japan,” Tokutomi said.