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The changing career paths of doctors

Masahiro Kami, M.D., Ph.D.

President, Medical Governance Research Institute, Tokyo, Japan

Raising medical students is challenging. Their lives are consumed by classes and practical training, limiting their social interactions. From my experience, the most earnest students often risk becoming narrow-minded. Interestingly, during my university days, it was not always the top students who later excelled, but those who were curious about diverse fields and interacted with a variety of people.

What should be done? It's essential for students to engage with people from various fields beyond medicine during their school years.

I graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tokyo in 1993. Some of my classmates were arrested in connection with the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist attacks. They were sincere and dependable men. I had close ties with them and even visited the Aum facility in Minami Aoyama. I was ardently invited to join but declined because their statements lacked authenticity.

I often reflect on what differentiated me from them; I believe it was having good mentors.

During my student years, I was a member of the kendo club, where both our kendo and academic skills were mediocre. Perhaps to enjoy ourselves, we often drank at the "Shiraito" yakitori restaurant near Hongo Sanchome. Our seniors, who frequently joined us, shared their failures and the realities of society.

One of them was the former National Police Agency Commissioner, Takaji Kunimatsu, who was targeted in the Aum incident. He once said, "Even one person is enough. If someone acts seriously, it's as good as done." This statement, epitomizing his approach to life, left a deep impression on me.

Another mentor who profoundly influenced me was Hiroshi Suzuki, a professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo, and former Vice Minister of Education. I met him in 2000; he was five years my senior from my secondary and high schools. Although I knew of him, we had no prior acquaintance. Our connection started when he reached out after a symposium we both attended, suggesting we collaborate on healthcare reform.

At that time, I was 35 and working at the National Cancer Center Hospital, struggling with my career path due to conflicts with my superior. His passionate email changed my life. Suzuki was in his prime at 40, tackling issues like professional baseball reorganization and playing a pivotal role in the Democratic Party's victory in the 2007 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, which led to a political shift.

Suzuki saw healthcare as a major issue in Japan, and our group took on the central role in addressing it. Our interactions led me to resign from the cancer center, and with help from many seniors, I established a lab at the University of Tokyo Medical Research Institute. Suzuki strongly recommended organizing camps with young people.

Suzuki had housed key figures like Daisuke Sato, who established the MP internship system, at his home during his tenure as a government official, fostering intense discussions. This experience significantly contributed to their development, and they regard Suzuki as a life mentor.

In 2005, I organized my first camp, welcoming students to the UniversiFNavity of Tokyo Medical Research Institute for the first time. I had no prior experience in hosting camps, so Suzuki guided me through the process. We stayed up late discussing various topics at a lodge in Tateshina, joined by students like Masaharu Tsubokura, a professor at Fukui Prefectural University, and Tomonori Seiyama, the mayor of Miyazaki City.

Both were students at the University of Tokyo Faculty of Medicine and were concerned about the medical field's status quo, with one-third of their classmates considering employment at consulting firms like McKinsey & Company. Tsubokura was also contemplating joining McKinsey but decided against it after Suzuki advised him to pursue clinical practice first. He later became an internist and a global authority on radiation management after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Our team now runs a "convenience clinic" in stations like JR Shinjuku, Kawasaki, and Tachikawa. This project evolved from our earlier efforts in a mixed-use building in Shinjuku, greatly supported by Suzuki. He not only conceptualized the "station convenience clinic" but also gathered resources, secured locations, and recruited both students and advisors like previous Yahoo Japan President Takuya Hirai.

Suzuki regularly visited our lab, training students alongside Hirai, who emphasized the essence of business: "If you want to succeed, focus on thorough execution." This interaction exposed me to the less visible aspects of their lives, and I witnessed many young individuals thrive, like Yohei Shiokawa, who founded and succeeded with the energy venture Enechange.

Mentoring, I've realized, inevitably inspires the next generation. The youth are building the future, and our mission at the Medical Governance Research Institute is to provide them with the opportunities to grow. If you are interested in joining us in this endeavor, please reach out.

This article is Osaka Health Insurance Newspaper published on Mar 23, 2024


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