Radiology, Paediatrics, Paediatric Surgery, Neurosurgery, St Luke’s Hospital, Tokyo, Japan

I completed my medical elective at St Luke’s Hospital in Tokyo, Japan. The hospital itself was a great location to spend four weeks as everyone was friendly and it was a relatively new facility.

A great perk was the staff cafeteria which provided fresh, subsidised Japanese meals each day for lunch.

The electives program at St Luke’s is very well organised. For the first two weeks, we had teaching with a senior general surgeon at the hospital.

The following week, we had a tour of the “Preventative Medicine” facility, which gave insight into the Japanese health system and how it differs from Australia, the largest difference being the lack of general practitioners in Japan.

On the final week, we presented a case we had seen at the hospital to the other elective students and the supervisor which was a great learning experience.

Each week of the elective was spent in a different department. My chosen departments were radiology, paediatrics, paediatric surgery and neurosurgery.

Radiology was an interesting placement and involved observing interventional radiology procedures as well as practising radiology report writing.

The practise report writing was a great way to enhance my skills interpreting mainly X-rays and CT scans and I had great one-one-one teaching with the consultant and senior registrars.

My paediatrics rotation involved mainly shadowing the paediatrics registrars and interns. This included daily ward rounds, meetings and sitting in on outpatient clinics.

The ward had many interesting presentations I had not seen before, including Kawasaki disease and rare haematological malignancies.

Paediatric surgery at this particular hospital was relatively quiet and on some days there were no surgeries at all.

However the surgeries I did see were amazing and I was able to scrub in and assist where possible. The team was also small but very welcoming and took me out to dinner and gave great suggestions of things to do around Tokyo.

Neurosurgery involved ward rounds in the morning, followed by observing a range of surgeries, including emergency cases.

For most of the surgeries a microscope was used by the surgeon and this was then projected onto a large screen so I could clearly see what was going on. Many of the registrars spoke good English and were able to explain things and answer questions. 

A downside to this placement was the language barrier. I learnt some phrases during my time spent there but did not speak or understand Japanese.

Fortunately, in every placement, there were enough doctors who spoke English to translate for me where possible and answer questions in English. However it did make some meetings and journal clubs difficult to engage with as I did not understand.

Overall I had an excellent elective at St Luke’s Hospital, and everyone was very welcoming and happy for me to get involved where possible.