Because of COVID-19, we must make sure we have accurate knowledge and try new things

College of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Professor Naoki Hattori
(Dean, College of Pharmaceutical Sciences)

Photo: Taken in 2017 / Interview date: August 26, 2020


How have classes and labs changed due to COVID-19?

What has been like to teach online due to COVID-19?

As with many other faculty members, I struggled with class preparation.
 For my online classes, I added audio commentary to my PowerPoint presentations and had the students listen to them. I typically use between 40 to 50 slides per class, but I had to create my own figures due to copyright concerns, so it took a very long time.
 In a face-to-face class, I can check students’ reactions, re-word my explanations to make them easier to understand, and use the blackboard, but I had some concerns about my online classes because I couldn’t tell how much my students were actually comprehending.
 This is why I started having students submit short reports after each class. Also, some of students contacted me online to ask questions. I was worried about how students would react to online classes and tests, but I was relieved when I looked at the class survey results and saw that my students said they learned a lot in my classes.

The College of Pharmaceutical Sciences also has labs. How did you handle these classes that are not held online?

Labs cannot be held online because they involve hands-on activities.
 We implement thorough preventive measures every time we hold labs. We take temperatures, have everyone wear masks and face shields (or goggles), arrange seating to avoid crowding, and adequately ventilate the rooms.
 We also ask students who develop a fever to let us know, and we instruct them to stay at home. To avoid crowding in the research labs where students are working on their graduation projects, we have adjusted lab schedules and put restrictions on the number of students who can use the labs at one time.

Have you noticed any changes in your students due to COVID-19?

Given the current situation and the fact that so many classes are online, I think students are tending to shut themselves inside. They are meeting their friends less and not getting any information, and this is having an impact on their job search as well.
 Students need to be proactive and seek out information, especially during this pandemic. Our faculty and staff post all kinds of information on the homepage and the manaba +R class support tool, so you should check these pages regularly.

What are your views on testing and
vaccines as the Dean of the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences?

As a practicing physician, what are you views on COVID-19 testing?

Many people trust test results, but there is no such thing as a perfect test. The PCR tests that are used to diagnose COVID-19 only return positive results from infected individuals about 70% of the time. The main reason for this is the incomplete collection of samples.
 On the other side of the coin, there is only a 0.1% chance of people who are not infected receiving an incorrect positive result, but if all of Shiga Prefecture’s 1.4 million people were tested, this means 1,400 uninfected people would end up misdiagnosed with COVID-19.
 Furthermore, when it comes to antibody and antigen testing, the accuracy is even lower due to sensitivity and specificity issues. We need to remember that these test results cannot be fully trusted.

There is still no treatment for COVID-19. What are your views on vaccine development?

In addition to conventional inactivated vaccines, new types of vaccines such as RNA and DNA vaccines are being developed. Japan and many other countries are racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that can be rolled out for commercial use.
 However, there is still a lot we don't know about the virus, so we might not be able to develop a vaccine at all, or if we do, we have to consider the possibility that it might not be very effective if the virus mutates or the efficacy of the antibodies does not last for an extended period of time.
 It is also possible that the vaccine could have side effects. As much as I hope there will be a treatment soon, we must avoid a situation where a faulty vaccine is rushed to market because we focused too much on speed.

Surviving during and after the coronavirus

What roles do you think universities should play during and after the pandemic?

First and foremost, it is important for universities to offer face-to-face classes. The work of pharmacists will change significantly, as it is becoming more important to provide healthcare as part of personal communication.
 To provide students with the required interpersonal skills, as much as possible, we would like to hold face-to-face classes and labs while taking sufficient measures to prevent infection. I also hope students can come to the campus so they can meet with faculty and staff, interact with their club members, and experience university life to the fullest.

Do you think we will be able to increase offline interactions going forward?

COVID-19 already completely interrupted our ability to move about once. Going forward, I think epidemiological research will reveal those situations where it is easy, or difficult, to get infected with COVID-19. With this information, we can take precautions in certain situations while going about our lives with peace of mind in all other situations.
 If we can rely on the power of science to elucidate the pathology of COVID-19 and develop treatments and preventive measures, then even if things don’t completely return to the way they were before, I still think we will see more interaction among people under the so-called “new lifestyle.”


Challenge your mind, change our future!
This is the slogan for R2030, our vision for Ritsumeikan University with an eye on the future 10 years from now.
Precisely because we find ourselves in difficult times due to the coronavirus pandemic, you should take action and try new things.
By doing this, I hope you can change not only your own future, but also the future of your friends, colleagues, and Ritsumeikan University for the better.


Professor Naoki Hattori

Affiliation: Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Areas of expertise: Medical pharmacy, endocrinology


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