Story and photos by Greg Mitchell, USNH Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 21, 2016) – The relationship between the host nation of Japan and the United States is a key component to the on-going political and economic stability within the Southeastern Asian area of responsibility. Within the relationship are smaller ones which help transcend the partnership further.
At U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Yokosuka, the partnership is a cultural exchange by way of medical care for patients. The relationship between the hospital and local hospitals is further advanced in do part of the collaboration with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Undersea Medical Center (UMC), located approximately five miles from Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka.
Sharing medical techniques and philosophies is a key component of the relationship. Along with USNH Yokosuka, UMC has formed what is known as the USNH Yokosuka and JMSDF Extern Program for young Japanese care provider officers to train at USNH Yokosuka. JMSDF Lt.j.g. Chie Fuyama is the most recent officer to complete the six-week course.
“My experience at USNH Yokosuka was very interesting because I had the opportunity to learn first- hand about the U.S. medical system and the spectrum of services it provides,” said Fuyama, who is currently assigned at UMC as a medical diving officer. “Working at the hospital helped me maintain – as well as improve my English-speaking proficiency. What I encountered was that American doctors were very enthusiastic about training with JMSDF doctors. Every day was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.”
The JMSDF medical program has been going on at USNH Yokosuka since January of 2013, but its origin began at USNH Okinawa Hospital in 2011. Strikingly similar to USNH Yokosuka’s ‘Fellows’ Japanese National Physician Graduate Medical Education Program for civilian Japanese doctors, the goal of the JMSDF program is simple; to provide young care providers in the Japanese system the opportunity to expand their capabilities as physicians while learning the U.S. Navy’s medical system.
Shadowing doctors and corpsman, Fuyama spent most of her time in Family Practice performing basic physical exams and conducting medical interviews with patients. She was also introduced to other departments, such as Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN), Pediatrics and Orthopedics. Medical cases that she observed varied, from knee and back pain, to headaches and fever-like symptoms, to pap-smears and the issuing of birth control.
Fuyama’s time at USNH Yokosuka also included tours of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and the Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka Ship Repair Facility Dive Locker to observe its hyperbaric treatment chamber.
“I met Dr. Fuyama during a recent joint JMSDF-USNH Yokosuka medical conference at the JMSDF Undersea Medical Center,” said Lt. Francis Hartge, undersea medical officer for Submarine Group Seven, Commander, Task Force 54 and Commander, Task Force 74 (CTF 54/74). “We share a similar background as we are both currently serving as dive medical officers. It has been a good experience to interact with her and her colleagues. She is very enthusiastic about her job as well as learning about medical standards and practice in the US.”
Fuyama sees some practices that the U.S. Navy hospital does that she feels the JMSDF should adopt.
“A perfect example of something the JMSDF does not have but I feel it could make good use of is a Physical Health Assessment (PHA) for its Sailors,” said Fuyama. “I think a questionnaire of this type would encourage our active duty troops to be more aware of the importance of sustaining a healthy lifestyle.”
Cultural exchange between the JMSDF and USNH Yokosuka presents the opportunity to enable cross-training that benefits both countries.
“Being half-Japanese, I understand the importance of building relations with individuals of different backgrounds and cultures,” said Lt.j.g. Dane Masuda, Family Practice physician assistant. “In this setting specifically, not only can one learn about and compare medical topics, but one can also do so the same concerning Naval customs and practices, specifically when conversing with the providers from the JMSDF hospital.”
Fuyama was recently replaced by two interns, Lt. Yujiro Itazaki and Lt.j.g. Shoh Fukadome. JMSDF’s way forward is to continue to send two physicians at a time.
“I can envision this JMSDF program becoming similar in quality to the current Japanese ‘Fellow’s’ Program (mentioned above) that has already been established here,” said Masuda. “It could similarly consist of established rotations throughout each of the Primary and Specialty Clinics, but then also extend out to short rotations with the Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 provider and FLEACT Yokosuka Dive Locker UMO. The JMSDF facility has a significant branch of Undersea Medicine, so incorporating our own similar facilities would only increase the value of a training program like this.”
Since being assigned to USNH Yokosuka, Masuda said that interaction with Japanese doctors has been an absolute positive experience.
“Whether they have been a Japanese medical student, resident, or physician, I have been amazed at the level of drive, passion, and willingness to step outside their comfort zone, that they have each exhibited,” said Masuda. “This becomes even more evident when considering how uncomfortable many of them actually are when it comes to regularly speaking English. Promoting programs like this is important to not only guide the development of these Japanese professionals, but to also build personal and professional relationships with each one of them.”