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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dr. Gen Kato, the Father of Veterinary Textbook Translation in Japan

Visiting a modern small animal hospital in Tokyo in early November, I marveled at how far the Japanese veterinarians have progressed in the medical care of companion animals in recent years. And one of the reasons for these advances is evident on the book shelves in veterinary offices where I see frequently-used copies of the most influential veterinary textbooks translated into Japanese.

Dr. Gen Kato and his technician in front of his CT scan machine

It wasn’t always so,” 78-year-old Dr. Gen Kato, explained to me. “When I opened my first small animal practice in 1964, I did not know how to diagnose and treat many of the problems of the dogs and cats presented to me because our veterinary education in those days was mostly limited to large animals.

Fortunately, Dr. Kato knew enough English that when he bought the third edition of Dr. Robert Kirk’s famous textbook, Current Veterinary Therapy, in the early 1970s, he was enthralled with the whole new world of information. “I couldn’t sleep for days”, he told me, “until I had finished reading the book.”

At the urging of his Japanese colleagues, and with the assistance of Dr. Kirk from Cornell, he translated the entire book from English into Japanese. It sold an amazing 2,000 copies, and he subsequently translated later editions of the book.

Sitting in the office in one of his four small animal hospitals, Dr. Kato showed me rows of veterinary textbooks that he has translated into Japanese during the past 35 years: a total of over forty books, ranging from internal medicine to oncology. In recent years, he has had several co-translators working with him, but he has remained the dominant force.

Dr. Kato travels to the United States many times each year, attending national meetings to stay abreast of the latest in veterinary practice and to remain connected to his many friends in academia and practice. His radiant smile and eloquent articulation of his love for veterinary medicine inspire those he contacts.

Though he is too humble to boast of his impact, his transformational vision and hard work were the catalysts in the development of modern companion animal practice in Japan.

Dr. Kato in front of one of his hospitals that is named,
with permission, after the famous veterinary center in Boston, USA