Time flies, and this spring marks my fifth year since starting my position. Last year, as human interactions returned to normal, we were able to actively engage in academic presentations and exchanges among department members. I’ve come to appreciate their importance anew. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, I feel that the educational and research activities in our department, especially among graduate students, have stabilized. In 2024, I aim to further expand our research activities with an emphasis on innovation.

2023 saw numerous significant events related to obstetrics and gynecology. Firstly, the number of births in the first half of the year was approximately 371,000, a 3.6% decrease from the previous year, with the final count expected to be in the early 700,000s, marking an all-time low. In May, COVID-19 was categorized under the same class as influenza as a Class 5 infectious disease. Moreover, the first domestic abortion pill, “Mefigo Pack,” was approved, trials for emergency contraception began, and discussions are underway regarding whether childbirth costs should be covered by public health insurance.

As an educator in obstetrics and midwifery, interacting daily with young students, I am keen on promoting HPV vaccination. The catch-up vaccination period has just over a year remaining. Therefore, from July to August in 2023, along with seminar students, we conducted a survey titled “Examination of Factors Related to HPV Vaccine Catch-up Vaccination among Female University Students.” The vaccination history revealed that 22% had already received three doses, 33% had utilized at least one catch-up vaccination, 26% wished to receive catch-up vaccinations in the future, 15% did not want to be vaccinated, and 4% had unknown vaccination status. We divided the respondents into two groups for analysis: those affirming vaccination (Group A) included those from categories 1, 2, and 3, and those against it (Group B) were from category 4. While there was no difference in knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer between the two groups, Group B showed lower knowledge about vaccination.
Furthermore, Group B felt the necessity and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine less frequently than Group A, rarely received recommendations from family or friends, had a stronger fear of side effects, and was not optimistic about the vaccination for the next generation. This indicates that knowledge of cervical cancer and HPV alone does not lead to vaccination, suggesting that actions beyond raising awareness are necessary. The impact of adverse media reports on side effects remains unforgettable for many, and dispelling such negative impressions is no easy task. The influence of close ones, especially family and parents, seems significant. Students raised by vaccine-skeptical parents tend to forego vaccination, indicating a need for targeted approaches toward the parent generation. We aim to encourage more young women to share a sense of urgency and make informed decisions about vaccination.

An unforgettable transformation was the explosive proliferation of generative AI, including chatGPT, released in November of 2022. In the spring of 2023, the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence issued a statement emphasizing the development of large-scale generative models by the ethical guidelines published by the society’s ethics committee in February 2017, which demand contributions to peace, safety, welfare, the public good, and adherence to fundamental human rights and dignity while respecting cultural diversity and acting with integrity. During the new semester, various universities announced guidelines for using generative AI. Hokkaido University stated on May 31, urging cautious use of such technologies in education, aligning with the university’s educational philosophy. Half a year has passed since then, and these tools have expanded into diagnostic support, medical education and training, reservation systems, online counseling platforms, and assistance in medical administrative tasks. I have been using it cautiously since spring, but I use it more frequently after introducing version 4.0 about a month ago. I aim to streamline and reduce the time spent on research activities by employing various plugins. While careful attention to input and verification of output information is necessary, the impact of this technology could be as significant as the shift from landlines to mobile phones.

We take another step forward as we usher in 2024. A new system for reforming doctors’ working styles will begin in April. Building on last year’s achievements, we hope to continue working together in cooperation for women’s health. I sincerely hope the new year brings hope and growth to everyone.

Let’s keep challenging ourselves!

Yasuhiko EBINA