Musings of a Gaijin MD

Life in Japan as a Foreign Doctor

Beach Clean-Up July 20, 2012

Filed under: Hospital,Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 2:38 PM
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My Loot


My Treasure

Litter Clean-Up

Last month, the hospital organized its annual beach clean-up.  The weather turned out to be great with a bit of cloud cover so that we all wouldn’t be roasted.  As my first experience with litter clean-up at a beach, it was surprisingly fun.  It was like beach-combing for treasures, and indeed, I found quite a few seashells.  All in all, a fun experience that also does some good for the community; can’t wait to do it again!


Fresh Interns April 8, 2012

Filed under: Hospital — GaijinMD @ 11:38 PM
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This past week heralded the start of the new academic year in Japan with the orientation of the interns.  One of my goals was to instill in them all the basic information they need before they officially start next week.  Of the “necessary” skills, I tried to teach them how to make a good and thorough case presentation, especially the HPI.  I even made a game out of it by making strips of paper with all the different symptoms and signs and have the interns (who were divided into 3 different groups) place each of the strips under either the HPI, ROS, or PE sections depending on the given chief complaint.  I must say I was so happy and excited to see them huddling, discussing, and thinking.  Ah, I had a moment a la proud mommy-duck leading her lil’ ducklings.  🙂  Hopefully, my padawans will not be led astray by bad habits (yet)…  *crossing fingers*


Graduation/Reunion Party March 25, 2012

Filed under: Hospital — GaijinMD @ 1:36 AM

Several weekends ago featured the residency graduation reception party along with the 10th Anniversary of the hospital’s collaboration with the American hospital in providing a full time American faculty at the Japanese hospital in order to bring a more Americanized teaching style to Japan.

As with most parties, the highlight lay in the preparation and primping before the actual event.  The party was held at the hotel with everyone dressed up in cocktail attire; it was quite refreshing actually to see people out of scrubs.

The R3’s (3rd year residents) filed up on stage to receive their certificates of graduation from residency.  The R2’s also received certificates for completing the Japanese mandatory 2 years of post-medical school “transitional years” training.  Afterwards, all of the 30+ graduating residents of the current year and of years past proceeded to give speeches a la the Academy Awards with the running time also rivaling the esteemed awards show.

Since all of the speeches were in Japanese, I decided just to focus on the 10 course Japanese meal to my great enjoyment.  The night was also made more amusing by having my visiting American friends sitting next to me and trying to mock/tease each other into trying the more “exotic” foods, such as shark’s fin soup.

After the plethora of speeches, I made a quick trip up the stage (all the while trying not to trip over my feet or have a wardrobe malfunction) to announce the awards for the best intern and best teaching resident.  I must say that I’m quite grateful that I didn’t fall flat on my face although I did have some moments of stuttering that I hope was not too noticeable, at least to the mainly Japanese audience (wishful thinking).

After the main hospital party, everyone relocated to a lounge for the after-party which provided a more convenient venue to mingle as the hotel party was more of a scripted program where the audience just sat quietly while eating and paying attention to the stage.

Overall, I’m glad to have attended such an event (and feel quite proud of the graduates and glad that I’ve had a chance to contribute to their education) although I wouldn’t mind for a little more liveliness.


Bounenkai December 27, 2011

Filed under: Hospital — GaijinMD @ 3:40 PM

With the end of the year approaching, the hospital held its annual bounenkai, or “forget-the-year gathering,” this month in the city’s hotel with the largest conference room.  The entire ~11,000 hospital employees and their families were invited with an actual attendance of about 700 people.

The attire for this event was a mixture of business and cocktail-wear.  Men usually wore their business suits while the women wore dresses.  In comparison to the States’ Christmas parties, the ladies’ apparel seemed to be more conservative and less “festive” although still elegant.

Instead of just having a group of people mingling at a typical holiday office party, this affair was more akin to a dinner show.  Attendees were seated in tables of 10 in the hotel ballroom while being served a 10-course Japanese meal with plenty of alcohol to go around.

During this time, the different hospital departments, i.e. residency program (usually interns), nursing department, surgeons, physical therapy, etc, performed on stage.  These performances ranged anywhere from the physical therapists’ rock band to lip-synching/dancing Japanese pop songs to traditional Japanese dances to the surgeons’ wearing only a loin cloth while performing a drum routine to pre-filmed videos of unusual antics (i.e. residents rolling around in the snow wearing only their boxers).  A common theme throughout these performances is having the male contingency cross-dressing and pushing the limits on vulgarity.

All in all, it was a very good time to be had by all.  Everyone got dressed up and “let their hair down” to celebrate the ending of the year.  It was definitely a unique experience as far as what a Japanese holiday “office party” consists of as I am pretty sure that this type of event could not be replicated in the States.  Indeed, how does one attempt to try to interpret the oxymoron of a “classy,” but “dirty,” party?


Thermometer Faux Pas October 17, 2011

Filed under: Daily Life,Hospital — GaijinMD @ 3:48 PM
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Medical thermometer

Image via Wikipedia

As today was the first day available in our hospital for the annual flu shot, I eagerly participated.  One of the differences I noticed for this employee vaccination was the requirement of the body temperature to be taken.  In America, it is not the usual standard to check beforehand; in fact, you can get the vaccine even if you run a “low-grade” fever.  Also, while a fever is defined as temperature >38.3 degrees Celsius in America, in Japan it is >37.5 degrees.

Anyways, when I was told I would need to have my temperature recorded, they nicely pointed me towards the thermometers.  Now, these thermometers are the handheld versions that you can purchase at any typical drugstore instead of the ones that are attached to the blood pressure machines.

As I picked up one of these thermometers and took it out of the case, I stared at it for a while as I was wondering where the plastic sheath cover for it was located.  I did see the alcohol wipes so I proceeded to wipe it down.  All through this time, however, I still thought it was odd that there was no plastic cover, especially given how hygienic the Japanese normally are.

Well, I decided to stop wondering and stuck the thermometer into my mouth…….  And then the coordinator extraordinaire immediately stopped me to tell me it’s actually an under-the-armpit method, not the oral method.   😦  Of course, I promptly took it out after the thermometer had touched my tongue.

While not many other people witnessed this episode and I’m not really embarrassed, per se, I just want to scrub my tongue now.  I really don’t want to think about this any more, or else I am going to start gagging….


Bigwigs October 2, 2011

Filed under: Hospital — GaijinMD @ 2:21 PM
United States Flag

Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

This past week, I got to meet some people from the US embassy/consulate/State department as they visited our hospital.  It was very interesting for me to learn that the US government still tries to take care of its citizens while in a foreign country.  For example, if any US citizens encounter any medical problems, the US embassy has a list of hospitals that they recommend.   Our particular hospital is on this list, but the US government has to make sure that the hospitals on the list have the appropriate services, i.e. orthopedics (in case some American decides that skiing is great but ends up with a broken bone), pediatrics, OB/GYN, etc.

We toured the hospital, and I even visited some places that I have never been before, such as the decontamination room and helipad.  They even offered to take us up on the helicopter, but we deferred for the time being.  Perhaps I will ask to go up on it another time, but given that I am prone to motion sickness, I am a bit hesitant.  (Nothing ruins the day more than vomiting on your coworkers a la George Bush senior.)

Later in the evening, I had dinner with them and found out more about what they do (and had more soup curry  🙂  I am so happy and grateful for my time in Japan as it has allowed me to meet and learn from people with whom I would otherwise not have a chance to encounter.


One Is the Loneliest Number September 29, 2011

Filed under: Hospital — GaijinMD @ 9:50 AM
one is the loneliest number

Image by horizontal.integration via Flickr

Well, I have finally achieved the feat; I managed to plan for a teaching session with absolutely no one showing up.  About once or twice a week in the late afternoon, there is a scheduled teaching session for the residents.  The topics of these sessions range anywhere from the most recent morning report topic to general, mundane topics (i.e. hypertension) to games, such as Jeopardy.

I have been told by my predecessors and my boss that, unfortunately, the attendance history of these sessions in the past 10 years has always been low.  In the last several months, the rotating medical students and a couple of residents came, but there was always at least 1 person.

This past week was when I had absolutely no one come.  Even though I have been prepared for this situation to happen, it is still a bit disheartening.  The residents may say that they are very busy at that time, but as medical residents, when are they ever not busy?  I am a firm believer that if you really want to do something, you will make the time and effort to do it; being “busy” is an excuse.

Anyways, chin up, me.  I will just continue telling myself that it is ok; on the upside, I can just use the same topic presentation the next time instead of coming up with something new.  😉