We’re lucky to have had Yuko Matsuura touch our lives

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Yuko Matsuura is a pharmacist from Tokyo, Japan, currently working at a pharmaceutical company. Her husband, Hiroshi, a researcher and chemist, was approached with an opportunity to come to the University of Minnesota and lend his chemical research expertise to a project on biodegradable plastics. Starting a new adventure, Yuko was able to take a leave of absence from her company in Tokyo, and the two made their way to Minneapolis.

Because of limitations of Yuko’s visa, she was not able to work, but found great pleasure being an international student at the U of MN. She studied English Communications and Academic Skills, and American History. But luckily for Hennepin Healthcare, she also became a volunteer with Volunteer Services, and was able to connect with a pharmacy.

Yuko volunteers in the pharmacy on the lower level of the Red building. This pharmacy is considered the ‘discharge’ pharmacy and serves hospital patients, and their medication needs as they discharge. Because Yuko was not licensed in Minnesota, she couldn’t fill prescriptions, so she is doing part of the assistant work. “I learned so much,” Yuko explains. ‘The experience of pharmacies in the U.S. are similar in Japan. America seems to be a bit more advanced in the medicines that are approved, especially cancer medicines. Unlike America, Japan’s healthcare system provides mandatory coverage by the government. Prices for medications are the same for all”.

Yuko will be leaving in about a month, and it is bittersweet for her and all who have come to know her. Kelly O’Brien, Volunteer Services Manager, describes Yuko as “an absolute ray of sunshine! Always so cheerful and engaging. You can’t not be happy after an encounter with her.”

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Travel has been a big part of their stay in the U.S. “We have been to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Colorado, and New York. In Minnesota, we’ve been to Winona and visited Duluth twice! One day we may come back, because I didn’t get to see Alaska and I’d like to go to New Orleans for some good jazz.”

“The photo of me and my mom, Yosihe, is in Kyoto. Kyoto is beautiful and was once the capital of Japan. Visitors often come to Kyoto. There is much to see. I am from Nara, Japan, where my mother still lives.

“The people at Hennepin have been wonderful and awesome. If Kelly says I’m cheerful, it is because of them. I have made over 100 friends and 80% of them are not Japanese. They helped me socialize and be motivated to contribute.”

You will be missed, Yuko Matsuura, but we were lucky you were here.

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