I did my elective placement, along with 3 other good friends from my year, at St Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo from 7 January 2019 – 1 February 2019.
St Luke’s is one of the biggest hospitals in Tokyo and one of the busiest, being located right in the centre of the city next to Ginza.
One of the best things about this program is that each student does 4x 1 week rotations in different departments. I was therefore lucky enough to spend time in Paediatrics, Paediatric Surgery, Neurosurgery and Infectious Diseases.
The program was very well run with dedicated staff to help with paperwork, organising schedules and to be a port-of-call for any concerns or questions we had.
In addition to the teaching in the placements themselves, the program also included two lectures from the head of the international student education program, a tour of the preventative health centre and a case presentation session in our final week.
This program has capacity for about 5 students at a time, however I was the only student in each department during my rotations.
Japan in general, and Tokyo specifically, was a fantastic place in which to spend 6 weeks living and travelling. It is an extremely safe, well-organised and welcoming place.
The doctors were all very excited to get to know us all and often took us out for dinner.
There is an endless variety of things to do on weekends and time off – some highlights for me were going skiing over new year’s, seeing a sumo wrestling tournament (only on for one week in January and September), visiting Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, and some more out of the way places, going hiking, seeing Robot shows, visiting art galleries and fish markets – not too mention all the delicious food we ate.
The downside of the program was that, even though most doctors spoke very good English, I struggled a bit to follow what was going on.
Doctors spoke to each other in Japanese mostly and spoke to patients exclusively in Japanese.
Having said this, in each department the doctors were all very keen to teach and happy to explain what was going on when I asked.
The Infectious Diseases team also did morning ward rounds in English and many doctors in every department had worked overseas in the USA or UK.
I highly recommend this elective if you want the same things out of the experience that I did: to get exposure to a wide range of specialties, to see a wide range of patients with sometimes rare conditions, see cutting edge technology (particularly in neurosurgery), to experience/ be challenged by a very different health system and culture, and to have a great time travelling around an amazing country.