Yusuke Nakamura could easily have had a long, successful career as a surgeon in Japan, but he isn't the kind of person who is satisfied with unanswered questions.

A three-month-long hospital stay after a skiing accident in junior high school initially stoked his interest in medicine and hospital life, but he went on to encounter several big questions during his medical training.

Memories of two patients in particular have stayed with him over the past 40 years. One was a young woman with gastric cancer. "We were the same age," Nakamura recalls. "She was 27, I was 27. I couldn't respond. I just tried to avoid crying myself. It was a very hard time for me."