Aspiring to Become Doctors Always Standing By Patients

Doctors-in-training at Min-Iren hospitals

2012 Min-Iren Orientation Course for new doctors was held on April 20 – 21 in Tokyo. A total of 142 medical doctors joining Min-Iren this spring gathered, where they discussed ideal models of doctors and the attitude they should acquire as doctors-in-training.
What are in the mind of these new doctors as they join Min-Iren? We talked with two new doctors who have joined Min-Iren activities as the Min-Iren scholarship recipients during their medical student days.

Lunchtime meeting paves the way to Min-Iren
Since 2003, Wakayama Min-Iren has held a monthly Lunch Time Meeting at the Medical Student Center (inside Wakayama Min-Iren office), offering a place for medical students to enjoy lunch together, exchange information on their studies or be friends.
In the beginning, very few students turned up for the meeting and a staff member in charge of student affairs sometimes ended up having lunch all alone. As time went by, more meetings were simply cancelled, when, in June 2005, Min-Iren proposed a “Campaign to increase the number of scholarship medical students”.
In response to this call, Wakayama Min-Iren set up a campaign promotion committee with the cooperation of the members of Wakayama Chuo Medical Cooperative Union, and started to reach out to medical students. Appeals for cooperation was made at the general meetings of representatives and activity-exchange forums of coop members of Wakayama Medical Cooperative Union. Promotion leaflets were also distributed through the medical coop’s newsletters. As a result, 4 medical students began to take part in the lunch meetings in 2006, which continued and got under way.
In time, medical coop members started to join the food preparation and arrangement of the lunch meeting. Now, coop members are taking full initiatives and different branches take turns to sponsor the meeting on Tuesdays.
On May 22, three members of Higashi Branch have brought the food they prepared at home and were waiting for the students to come.
Mr. Nakade Minekazu joined for the first time in welcoming the students. He helped dish up the food prepared at home, and Ms. Kadoya Etsuko and Ms. Ueda Mutsuko cooked miso soup. With a smile, they said, “We are hoping that this small effort will encourage medical students to link up with Min-Iren.”

One-day medical doctor experience course
Dr. Okai Yasuha (Wakayama Coop Hospital) first attended the lunchtime meeting in her freshman year in the medical school. She learned about Min-Iren for the first time when she joined as a high school student the “One-day medical doctor experience course” sponsored by Mimihara Sogo Hospital in Osaka. After she won admission into Wakayama Prefectural Medical University, a staff member of Osaka Min-Iren introduced her to Wakayama Min-Iren, and she was invited to their lunchtime meeting.
“I was of course attracted to the home-made cooking, but I enjoyed so much just listening to what medical coop members, hospital staff people and senior students of my university had to share during the meeting. I did not miss the opportunity even it I was the only student on the day.”
But she was reluctant to take active part in seminars sponsored by national Min-Iren or Wakayama Min-Iren. “The contents seemed difficult and I was busy with club activities,” she said. But what changed her was a lecture meeting recommended by Min-Iren staff regarding the problem of drug-induced hepatitis cases. She was shocked by one of the plaintiffs of the lawsuit on the drug-induced hepatitis, who said, “We might be attacked by cancer tomorrow.”
Since then, she has taken part in Min-Iren lectures and study meetings, trying to learn and directly feel whatever she cannot know inside the school campus. Last year, she visited earthquake-stricken areas in Iwate, talked with medical doctors working for the victims, and learned about the real situation of the victims by visiting them at their temporary housing complex.

“Please protect the health of people in our community”
Shortly before completing her study she had a hard time deciding at which hospital to do her on-the-job training. Many hospitals invited her, saying, “Our hospital is rooted in the local community” or “We always respect patients.” She finally decided on Wakayama Cooperative Hospital, where coop members told her, “This hospital will come to help you whenever you are in a real trouble,” and “Please come to our hospital and help us protect our health.” The words from the patients and coop members, not from hospital staff, got to Dr. Okai’s heart.
And in April she officially took on the job as a medical doctor of the hospital. And from day one, she has been learning a lot from patients. She took charge of a patient who was hospitalized due to pneumonia. Besides pneumonia, he suffered from other chronic diseases he had never had clinically examined, so she conducted a full examination on him over several days.
Dr. Okai felt relieved to see his pneumonic condition getting better. But one day, a nurse in charge of him reported, “The patient looks very worried and is eager to go home.” She hurried to the patient’s bedside and learned that he was so worried about his wife in delicate health staying alone at home.
“I never knew about such circumstances. I could have given him permission to go home for a short while between the checkups,” she said. “I want to become a doctor who can grasp the entirety of the patients, including their living situation. It’s not easy, but in this hospital, senior doctors and other hospital staff are always willing to help me,” she said confidently.

Experiencing patient’s life
When he was small, Dr. Cong Yue (Tone Chuo Hospital, Gunma Prefecture) suffered asthma and could not play outside with others. “I was happy when a doctor visited me at my house and spared some time talking and playing with me. That unforgettable memory led me to think about becoming a medical doctor when I was a senior high school student.”
During his first year at medical school, he attended a briefing session of Gunma Min-Iren on its scholarship system. He was impressed by Min-Iren’s such principles as “not charging extra for a room not covered by a health insurance plan rate,” or “providing medical care to people in poverty and not able to pay medical expenses”, and decided to become Min-Iren’s scholarship student.
He took part in many programs of Min-Iren’s scholarship system, including activities to learn the history of war or medical care system, and peace work. He also joined a fieldwork to spend a day together with a diabetic patient, following exactly the same living pattern of the patient. This program was devised to prove doctor’s guidance to improve the lifestyle of adult diseases patients by actually putting doctors’ feet in patients’ shoes.
The patient that Dr. Cong met in the fieldwork was a farmer, and he helped him harvest flowers and vegetables. “Working virtually all day, his meal time changes according to his farm work. Physically and time-wise, he has no time for walking or other exercise. I learned first-hand the difficulty some patients have in improving their lifestyles, however hard they want to.”
In his day-to-day work as a trainee doctor and having a daily conversation with patients, he sometimes finds serious problems they have. “But I should not give just a passing remark of encouragement, and I feel at a loss how to respond. One day I want to become a doctor who will not only be able to treat patients’ illnesses but also support them emotionally and mentally.”

(Article by Yasui Keitaro; Photo by Mamezuka Takeshi)