February 19, 2010
February 19, 2010
COMMENTS ON THIS TOPIC HAVE BEEN CLOSED. SORRY.
How many years do students study medicine before graduating in Japan?
Six. But the number of ryunen-sei ('year' repeaters) is higher than for most other subjects. Some students take up to 9 or 10 years to complete the program.
So they can come in straight from high school and typically graduate at age 23/24?
Well, theoretically, yes. But medical students tend to be slightly older on average than those in other faculties. More have transferred from other universities, have been working in society, or have spent a year or three as a ronin. Only about 40% of the freshmen in Miyazaki University's medical faculty are en'eki ' (straight out of high school) students and many of those will end up repeating a year or two (see above) so typical grads will be between 25 and 30.
Is there anything like Pre Med in Japan?
Yes and no. There is no specific 4 year Pre Med program as typically found in North America, but in their first two years Japanese medical students focus on General Education (Kiso Kyouiku- including English classes, humanities etc.) but begin to gradually focus more on applied sciences (anatomy, biology, physiology, histology) before eventually moving into more and more specific medicine-based classes by the time they reach 4th year.
What happens in years five and six?
They go through most or all individual departments in the attached university hospital under the tutelage of practicing professors/physicians. They have to attend departmental conferences, relevant lectures, participate in research studies, and carry out report writing during this time as well. In many Japanese medical schools this is called Porikuri (Poly Curriculum) and/or kurikura (Clinical Clerkship). This practicum typically extends to other locally-affiliated hospitals too.
When are the big exams?
The end of year four is chock full of subject exams and of course graduation exams occur in Nov/Dec in the 6th grade. These are the biggies.
So after graduation they are officially doctors?
Not yet. After completing and passing the graduation exams they have to sit for and pass the National Medical Licensing Board Examination (known as the 'Kokushi'), held in February. After they pass that they become Dr. Watanabe or whatever.
So, after only six years of study they can just open their own clinic?
No again. All freshly graduated doctors are required to partake in a two year trainee (kenshu-i) program. They will choose a small number of departments that they want to get a feel for (as a doctor now, not as a student) and spend two years doing the rounds and learning the ropes (typically 4-6 months) of each department.
How does one end up as, say, an ophthalmologist or orthopedic surgeon then?
Towards the end of their trainee programs, they will choose their specialty. Most will enter a university hospital at first under the auspicies of the departmental 'ikkyoku' (loosely translatable as a 'central office'). After five years in any one department (six for some) the doctors can then sit for the National Specialist Medical Licensing Exam. It is after this that many branch out into private clinics and practices, although most do not have the financial means to do so while so young.
OK- getting back to university study- are medical students generally brighter and keener than other students?
The medical faculty is very often the most difficult school to enter at a university, so yes, they tend to be quite good academically (although Miyazaki is obviously not Tokyo University). I think this is true worldwide but, yes, there are some who make you think 'How did that guiy ever get into medical school'?
So, do they get in to medical school based on their Center Shiken scores?
Entry standards vary from university to university. Center Shiken scores will almost always be a factor, as will second-stage individual university entrance exam scores (nijishiken). But local quotas, recommendations, and personal essays/interviews are also typically part of the process. Many universities (particularly private ones) have feeder high schools which gear prospective medical students for entry.
Are medical students, ummm, more nerdy than most students?
Not really. Med students actually tend to be a bit wild (the faint of heart would not want to see our pre-student festival party!) . There are all types: the jocks, the gals, the hippies, the arty types- you might be surprised. But most have had good study habits- although this can unravel temporarily in their first few months or years away from home and Mom.
Are most rich?
Maybe above average. But since national universities like Miyazaki U. are heavily subsidized fees are relatively low and therefore less of a factor for the not-so-well-to-do. What is a factor is that a fair number of med students have parents in the medical profession.
More males than females?
Slightly. About 55-45 on average. But we've had two freshman classes with more females than males.
I've heard that Japanese students can often pass by doing almost nothing. Is that true of medical students too?
No. The study demands are definitely harder than in most faculties and there is more academic accountability. As I said earlier, there are quite a few repeaters. Students who don't hit the books will eventually feel the pinch somewhere along the line. I've heard that 95% of all medical students here have failed at least one course during their six years.
Can they take part in operations and so on while they are students?
No. Japanese law is extremely strict in this regard. They cannot administer an injection to a patient as a student, for example. They can't make any official clinical decisions or take any clinical actions. It's a liability issue, but of course our students want to do these things (under supervision). When medical students from other countries visit our university (or vice-versa) our students are envious that most other countries allow their medical students to carry out simple medical procedures. But in Japan this would typically start during the trainee period (2 years post-graduation)
Do many choose to do post-graduate study?
A number do, often while working full-time as doctors.
How do they choose where they want to work?
They are heavily recruited as there is a doctor shortage in almost every department, and especially so in the Japanese countryside. They will be courted, wined and dined from 5th year on. During pre-graduate years many will carry out short internship programs at various hospitals during their summer 'holidays' just to get a feel for a potential workplace. Most will choose a hospital based on 1) a doctor they like or greatly respect being in charge 2) a hospital being famous for the special field(s) they are interested in 3) hometown access.
Any more questions? Fire away....
UPDATE Feb. 2012:
A number of students outside Japan have written asking about studying medicine and/or obtaining a medical license in Japan in response to this article. Let me state clearly here that if you are not absolutely fluent in Japanese you will not be able to pass the university entrance exams, participate in the classes and practica, or pass the national licensing exam. The door for foreign medical students is open however at the post-graduate level. After you have obtained a degree in a medically-related research field or an actual MD degree elsewhere most universities in Japan can offer some post-grad research degrees and positions which are conducted in English- usually overseeen by a single professor in a very specific field. For more detailed information you should consult individual university websites as details vary.