International program good for global health

October 27th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Campus News

medical professor and students in patient simulation lab

Asian students learn at Hawaiʻi hospital and medical school facilities while Hawaiʻi students do a rotation abroad

For more than four decades, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has pursued a cultural exchange where the universal language is medicine.

Fourth year students and faculty in the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Postgraduate Medical Education Program learn about global health issues firsthand by spending time in healthcare centers across the Pacific and Asia.

The medical school sends faculty members to Chubu Hospital in Okinawa, and Chubu sends medical students to Hawaiʻi to observe at Kuakini Health System. All return with a deeper understanding of the world around them and appreciation for another culture, says program director and UH Distinguished Alumnus Satoru Izutsu.

“It’s like the Peace Corps for medicine,” he says.

Mānoa medical students can earn credit for a first-year summer or fourth-year international elective at institutions in Japan, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Philippines, Palau, Taiwan or Thailand. The students become better physicians because of what they have seen, Izutsu says. And the program is a key component of the school’s vision of being the best in the Asia Pacific region.

The exchange began in the wake of World War II. The United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, which governed Okinawa after the war, put out a plea for help training local medical staff. Hawaiʻi responded. By 2010, 742 trainees had completed the post-graduate medical education program. The exchange now involves 16 hospitals and universities in the Asia Pacific region.

The benefits are many, Izutsu says. The Chubu Hospital staff has received U.S.-style training, gaining a broad skill base and benefiting from group practice with peer review. Through the Committee on Global Health and Medicine, which develops policy on international health and medicine education and research for the John A. Burns School of Medicine, UH maintains relationships with partner institutions, healthcare providers and health researchers that facilitate work on issues pertinent to Hawaiʻi.

Dr. Benjamin Berg helping student intubate a patient simulator

Berg and student

UH Mānoa Associate Professor of Medicine Benjamin Berg participated in the Chubu Hospital program for a two-week visit and has gone to hospitals throughout Asia.

He’s made clinical rounds, done bedside teaching and given a series of lectures in his specialty of pulmonary disease and critical care medicine.

“I was amazed to discover that the forms used for the history and physical exam at the time of admission to the hospital were in English,” he says. The medical education program at Chubu Hospital is a novelty in Japan, with a curriculum and structure modeled on the American graduate education program for post MD medical training.

“Chubu Prefecture Hospital is a national leader in this initiative,” Berg adds. “The world is so inter-connected now that advances in medical education can cross language, culture and practice pattern barriers seamlessly.”

The friendships he has formed with other medical professors through the exchange have led to further academic collaboration, including a medical education seminar in Hong Kong with physician Haruo Obara.

That’s exactly the kind of experience Izutsu wants to foster. “The benefit is humanitarian,” he says. “The Japanese medical system is a socialized system that is very up-to-date. Our physicians who go and impart their expertise learn a lot from another culture, another arena of practice in a different system.”

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