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UT-Houston Medicine Magazine

Students experience cultural exchange with Japanese sister institution

By Darla Brown

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Six years instead of four years. "Tutorial" instead of problem-based learning. Not to mention that the majority of classes are in Japanese.

Two cultures working together, from back, left,
chair of Pathology, Keisuke Izumi, M.D., Ph.D.; Yasuhiro
Kuroda, M.D., Ph.D., vice president; Fumie
Murasawa, assistant dean, with UT Medical School
visitors Elizabeth Truong, Anil Kulkarni, Ph.D., and
Dana Bui.

Those are just some of the basic differences between the University of Tokushima Health Science Center and The University of Texas Medical School at Houston as second- and third-year students Dana Bui and Elizabeth Truong discovered during a threeday tour with faculty member Anil Kulkarni, Ph.D., professor of surgery.

"This is the only exchange program that I know of between the UT Health Science Center and a Japanese health science center," Dr. Kulkarni says.

The affiliation involves both university's dental schools and medical schools.

"An affiliation means that we are sort of sister universities, which will allow exchange visits between faculty, staff, and students to learn about the educational process and how the universities work," Dr. Kulkarni says.

The affiliation began as a research collaboration of Dr. Kulkarni's more than 10 years ago with professor Shigeru Yamamoto.

"I asked if their university would be interested in having an affiliation and their president's office agreed and came here to sign the agreement with Dr. James Willerson in 2002," he explains. "Since then, many of our faculty members have gone to visit and a few dental students have visited."

Elizabeth learns the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

The three-day trip in mid-June was the first trip involving Medical School students, who were able to visit, in part, thanks to a travel award that Dr. Kulkarni had received from the health science center. Instead of using it for himself, he split the monetary award between the students to help shoulder the burden of the airfare.

"The students were treated royally by our hosts and really enjoyed it," he says. "They interacted with students on and off the campus and found out that except for looks and language, students are the same."

"Everyone from the University of Tokushima far exceeded our expectations with respect to hospitality and helpfulness," second-year student Dana Bui adds.

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