YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --
Yokota Air Base recently concluded a semester of the Japanese Physician Fellowship Program (JPFP), a one-year, rotating education program designed to train Japanese physicians and familiarize them with U.S. medical practices.
This unique program, which began in 2015, is conducted entirely in English and offers Japanese physicians the opportunity to gain experience in inpatient and outpatient medicine as they would in an American hospital-based residency program.
"Our fellowship program allows Japanese doctors to apply for the program, compete for selection, and work with us for a year," said Col. Ann McManis, 374 Medical Group deputy commander. "During that year, they rotate through different sections to learn our practices. Sometimes, it can set them up in the future so they can kind of transfer to the U.S. if they choose."
One of the most significant benefits of the program is the assistance the Japanese physicians provide when Yokota medical needs to coordinate with local Japanese hospitals. These fellows can serve as a vital link in the transfer process by communicating with the host nation providers, especially for services the base cannot provide.
The JPFP is open to Japanese citizens or permanent residents of Japan who have graduated from a Japanese medical college or university, possess a Japanese doctor's license, and have an English Language Proficiency level of at least four.
During the fellowship, physicians will complete rotations in family medicine, urgent care, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, internal medicine, anesthesiology, and radiology. Elective rotations are available in dermatology, otorhinolaryngology (ENT), oral maxillofacial surgery, anesthesia, psychiatry, optometry, and physical therapy.
Accepted fellows will also serve as medical liaisons between Yokota's medical facility and local Japanese hospitals. This experience allows them to connect with more medical professionals and contribute to the broader medical community.
Since the program is so competitive, only three Japanese physicians began the newest semester of the training.
One of the fellows from the previous semester, Takeshi Sasaki, says he aspires to practice medicine in the United States.
"Most applicants apply to military hospitals in Japan because we're really interested in applying to a medical university in the U.S.," Sasaki said. "This program really allows us to get accustomed to what we would experience there. If we went to the U.S. right after finishing training only in the Japanese medical system, it would be very difficult to transition."
Those in the program work hand-in-hand with their U.S. counterparts, strengthening the capabilities of both sides and driving their teams toward a common goal of building relationships and fostering cooperation.
From his time working with the 374 MDG, Sasaki says he learned the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
"This was a completely new environment for me, but I was excited about the experience," Sasaki said. "Most importantly, I learned how important the military was to maintain the security of the U.S. and Japan. Coming here dramatically changed my perspective in a good way."
He was also able to assist in bridging the vital gap with local hospitals and getting the care needed for the Yokota community.
"During my time here, I was able to take part in multiple events which facilitated relationships between Japanese and military hospitals," Sasaki said. "I was able to translate and give medical advice to the local hospitals. It brought me closer to the doctors here that I have been working with."
The JPFP at Yokota Air Base offers an opportunity for Japanese physicians to gain experience with American medical practices and culture. Through this cross-cultural medical exchange program, participants strengthen bilateral relationships between the U.S. and Japan and help maintain the security of both nations. As the program continues to evolve and expand, it is expected to significantly impact the future of medicine and the international partnership between both nations.