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Best Japan experience yet

Author: Hans Jesper Del Mundo

Editors: Motoi Miura, Akihiko Ozaki

(This essay was written when the author stayed in Japan in summer 2017.)

I am a 22 year old incoming fourth year medical student at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. I am also a registered medical technologist and graduated from BS Public Health prior to taking medicine. My father is a marine engineer while my mother is a businesswoman. I have three siblings with me being the eldest one. I came from Maddela, Quirino, Philippines, which is a small town found to the north of Manila.

I am currently taking an elective program in vascular surgery in Jikei University School of Medicine for a month. I chose to do my elective here in Japan because I wanted to learn how hospitals are operated and how doctors, nurses and other medical staff work together in this country. Most importantly, I was mesmerized by Japan’s cleanliness and efficiency especially in transportation and by how disciplined, honest and kind the people are when I first came here. I also admire how they preserved their culture despite modernization and technological advances.

I also met Asaka Higuchi, who was introduced to me by my friend Bernadette Joy Almirol, a month before I went to Japan. She is a nurse and researcher from Medical Governance Research Institute (Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan) and introduced me to the people at her workplace who are very kind and accommodating. I also enjoyed giving a lecture there about the health system in the Philippines and discussing the similarities and differences between my country and Japan in terms of health system and its status.

My stay in Jikei University School of Medicine was also amazing and unforgettable. I met various foreign students like me, who also chose to do their electives in Japan to observe how hospitals are operated here. A large part of my elective program was spent at the department of vascular surgery, and the doctors from that department were all very helpful and thoughtful. They always try to initiate conversations in English and try to translate things they do during surgery. All in all, it was nice being exposed to a completely different hospital and health workers.

During my stay in the Jikei University Hospital, I was in the operating theatre, spending most of the time in the observation and assistance of surgeries. I was also able to do observation during rounds, which was difficult because I cannot understand Japanese. Despite the language barrier, I can still see the concern of the doctors for their patients. Based from my observations, Jikei University Hospital has more privacy and comfortable beds in their wards compared to our hospital back home, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). Although the PGH caters for more patients every day, the patients are not always treated optimally and efficiently, with our limited human health resources. Hospital supplies were not also a problem in Jikei unlike in PGH, where we provide our own scrub suits, operating room shoes, head cap, and even other hospital supplies. Jikei is also more advanced in terms of technology, for example, in treating varicose veins: PGH still does vein stripping while Jikei has laser treatment for that. Most importantly, most of the surgeries done in Jikei were done to prevent complications of the patients’ conditions, while usually in PGH surgeries are performed to treat the complications themselves. Such differences primarily originate from a disparity in the development: Jikei is a hospital in Japan, a developed country, while PGH is a one in the Philippines, a developing country. Despite these large differences, both hospitals are the same in terms of discipline, work ethics, emphasis on patient education, and the desire to treat patients the best way they can.

I also had the chance to visit Navitas clinic in Tachikawa and shadowed Kusumi-sensei, a famous internist, while patients consult him. I saw various cases such as obstructive sleep apnea, hyperthyroidism, dyslipidemia and many more. I was amazed how quickly the consults were conducted, and on their online-based appointment scheduling system. The location and operating hours of the clinic were really convenient and addresses the needs of working people. It was also nice knowing that most Japanese are covered by their health insurance so they only need to pay a very little cost or sometimes not pay at all for health services. I can only wish that our country someday reach this level of health service delivery where people do not have to shell out so much out-of-pocket money. This experience was a lot different from what I had in Jikei Hospital because now I actually observed how patient consults were done, which makes me glad that I visited this place.

This is my second time in Japan, but I can honestly say that my stay now is definitely better than the first one because I visited a lot more places this time and I had more interactions with Japanese people. As for my plans in the future, I want to pursue residency training maybe in surgery, radiology or internal medicine. I’d also like to do clinical researches in therapeutics, diagnostics and prognostication and do further studies in domains of public health. I am also very interested in collaborating with the Medical Governance Research Institute when doing my researches.

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