Building Bridges: Medical Student Visits Japan

Rita Aulie Travels to Japanese Primary Care Conference, Discusses OHSU's Family Medicine Interest Group

06/27/16  Portland, Ore.

By Rita Aulie, OHSU Medical Student

This summer, I had the special opportunity of being invited to travel to Japan with OHSU Family Medicine faculty and residents for the 7th Annual Japan Primary Care Conference, where I had the chance to speak to medical students about our Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG) programing. 

Family medicine has unfortunately been unpopular among medical students in Japan, with only one percent of graduates joining family medicine residencies. Consequently, students and doctors at the conference were highly interested in hearing about the reasons family medicine is attractive to students at OHSU, and strategies for building up student engagement through programs like the FMIG. 

I primarily spoke about the programing that our OHSU FMIG provides to expose students to family medicine during the pre-clinical years of medical school. In Japanese medical schools, there are four pre-clinical years and two years of clerkships. It is a high priority for them to keep the students interested in general practice engaged, motivated, and connected to their community over four years of textbook studying. At the conference, there was a half-day student-led FMIG symposium organized by Dr. Anna Tamai, where I had the opportunity to give a presentation about our OHSU FMIG and talk to many students from all over Japan about our shared passion for community medicine.

After the conference in Tokyo, we traveled to Miyazaki prefecture in the south of Japan to meet with students from a newly-founded FMIG. Under the guidance of family doctor Manabu Yoshimu and six student leaders, the Miyazaki University FMIG had grown to fifty members in only three months. Earlier in the year, I had the chance to Skype with the student leaders and talk to them about putting on FMIG workshops, so to me it felt like a happy reunion to finally meet them in person. I was constantly touched by their hospitality, generosity and enthusiasm.

In Miyazaki, I joined with two third-year medical students from the University of Hawaii to give presentations and lead small group discussions on FMIG activities. English-language classes are part of Japanese medical school curriculum, and we had the chance to participate in English classes for first-year and fourth-year students. Each of us led a small group about taking a medical history in the clinic setting. It was challenging to try to teach English and medicine at the same time, but it was the most rewarding experience for me of the whole trip. 

Scott Fields, MD, was our faculty leader during the trip to Miyazaki, and by following in his footsteps I observed how the themes of primary care that I find so impactful and inspiring can reach students across cultures and language barriers. I am excited to stay in touch with the medical students in Tokyo and Japan and see where that inspiration takes primary care in their communities and their country!

Rita Aulie in JapanPictured: (L to R) Rita explores the Miyazaki Flower Gardens with FMIG leaders, Mai, Shiho, and Saki.