« previous case study back to case studies next case study »

Nagoya University Hospital, Nagoya, Japan

Clinical interest: Vascular surgery

I was interested in doing my three months surgery rotation as a final year student in Japan since I am very interested in Asian culture and have been to Asia many times before for traveling and for my dissertation in Cambodia. I was always attracted by Japan because of its very unique culture and its outstanding position in Asia but never got the chance to visit it before. It made sense to choose surgery as a rotation because I had a lot of experience thanks to internships, my dissertation and my side job and there is less patient contact in comparison to other specialities, which was an advantage because of the language barrier.

Almost by accident I found out about the partnership of my University with Nagoya University because there is no information about that on the webpage of my University. I contacted the International Office and they responded almost immediately, providing me with all the necessary information regarding my application.
Since my university is very strict regarding the time frame and the surgical departments among which I could choose it took some time to receive the final admission but the International Office did everything they could to make it happen.

After I received my admission and prepared everything for the flight, all the necessary documents and packing I finally was on my way to Japan. As I arrived on a Saturday I had to move into a hostel first before I could move into my dormitory. The Office had informed me about everything I would need, how to get from the airport to the hostel, what to do in Nagoya and where to come for my first day.
As my first day was a day of public holiday, Prof. Kasuya held a lecture about the Japanese health care system which was quite interesting for me as I didn’t know a lot about that before. Luckily, in Japan patient care is still more important than monetary interests like in other countries.

The first month I spent in gastroenterological surgery (dep. II) under the supervision of Professor Kodera. Everyone was very welcoming, introduced him- or herself to me and Professor Kodera himself took his time to show me around in the department. The department offered two days of teaching per week where junior doctors taught students and residents suturing, resuscitation, the application of central vein catheters etc. My favourite class was in the simulation lab where we could practice computer simulated operation techniques and made a lot of progress during that time. On three days the department had operations accompanied by conferences where someone translated the key points for me. In the OR and the ward rounds everyone explained procedure and patient history thoroughly and I profited more from my internship than ever before as there are not many explanations in Germany. I could assist in the operations as often as I wanted to and I also felt like a complete member of the team since everyone invited me to events in the evenings or I was kindly invited for a traditional dinner by the professor. In the end the department also planned a farewell party and I was overall overwhelmed by their generosity, kindness and welcoming attitude.

The following month I spent in cardiac surgery (dep. III) under the supervision of Professor Usui. Here too, everyone gave me a warm welcome and I got my own desk and locker. Operations took place every day and conferences three times per week in the morning where someone also translated the essentials for me. Often Professor Usui took his time to revise operation methods, procedures or patient histories with me personally that I could benefit a lot even though my Japanese was very limited. On two days the department had ward rounds in the morning where Professor Usui also explained very much and sometimes we had teaching ward rounds on the ICU. In the OR – similar to the department before – all of the younger doctors took care of me and I could even assist sometimes. In the end Professor Usui himself invited me to a cardiothoracic congress in Sapporo and supported my journey. I was so grateful that I didn’t even know how to show that. The congress in Hokkaido was a very good experience. It was my first congress and I could learn a lot about new operation techniques, diseases and innovations. There was always someone around to translate or do simultaneous translations during the seminars. Also, I could see a lot of the beautiful landscape of Hokkaido, visited Sapporo, its university, the beautiful coast line city Otaru and went to an Onsen in the mountains to enjoy the beautiful view onto the forest with the autumn colours.

For the last month I was allocated in thoracic surgery. This is a very small department, I had two mentors who were responsible for me and translated the conferences in the morning, lectures that were held in Japanese, procedures on the ward rounds and in the OR. The lobectomies didn’t take so long, so that I could participate in many operations and also learn a lot. This month was also very educational and everyone was also very welcoming and friendly like in the departments before.
During the three month I could see very interesting and special cases as the university hospital in Japan is a centre for many rare diseases.

For my personal life, the International Office took lovingly care of me, found out about many university activities that took place and information that was often only available in Japanese, possible activities for the weekend, my SIM and the railway card etc. In the end I went to a traditional Aikido class 2-3 times per week, took advantage of the free gym at the university, went to tea ceremony class and photography club only once as it unfortunately didn’t match my schedule. Actually, I wanted to participate in a language class but during summer holiday it didn’t take place, so I learned a bit Japanese with a book and the “Duolingo“ app. Knowledge of Japanese is always helpful as many locals in the rural areas or restaurant can’t speak English. During my time in Japan I became a huge fan of so called “Onsens“, the hot springs in Japan.

On the weekends I visited Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Takayama, Gero, Okuhidaonsen, Utsumi beach, Himakajima (Fugu) island, Hokkaido and walked the Nakasendo path. Furthermore, I took advantage of the huge cultural offers in Nagoya itself with the art and science museum, the interesting university museum with an exhibition about Nobel Prizes in Japan, the Toyota museum, Nagoya port and the aquarium and Fuji icebreaker. Furthermore, I went out many times with my new Japanese friends from the departments! All of the places I have been to are highly recommended to see!

I still can’t believe that I had such an amazing time in Japan, learned so much about one of the best-preserved cultures, had the best food of my life, met such interesting, generous and kind people, had great talks and such an educational internship where I could benefit a lot. I don’t exaggerate when saying it was the best internship during my medical studies.
Thank you so much to everyone! I hope I will come back soon for doing my PhD program in Nagoya.


Nagoya hospital

Simulation lab

My room in the Myokencho residence

To see an unedited version of Vera's report, please contact info@electives.net.
The comments and opinions expressed in this report/feedback do not necessarily reflect the policies and opinions of the MDU or The Electives Network. All statements and views are solely those of the authors who have placed them on this site. Neither the MDU nor The Electives Network accepts any responsibility for any error or omission. Any complaints about the content of this article/feedback must be communicated to info@electives.net

« previous case study back to case studies next case study »