Letter to Japan Times : Increase rural-area health force

The following letter was printed in READERS IN COUNCIL, Japan Times 100523

Increasing rural-area health force

Recently newspapers have reported that Japan needs more medical schools because of a shortage of doctors. Medical school diplomas have become major and costly bottlenecks to the supply of competent doctors. Yet, in today’s world of the Internet, there are other ways to produce well-qualified doctors. Simple changes in Japanese licensing laws could provide an alternative to the medical and dental school diplomas that are required to take licensing exams.

First of all, licensing laws should be identified with a bloc of nations oriented toward global licensing. Collaboration on this goal from a broad range of appraisals would improve the content quality of licensing exams.

As the late Dr. Eugene A. Stead stated in an article titled “A New Way of Making Doctors”, state-accredited medical schools should establish distance-learning curricula that allow experienced, community-bound health professionals, including physician assistants and nurse practitioners, to take medical school courses from home or at work in order to “build upon the talents of these nontraditional but seasoned clinical veterans.”

I recommend global collaboration among governments with the aim of transferring modes of nation-accredited health care to a global health workforce. A first step would be to share the content of licensing exams for doctors and other health workers in the world.  The World Health Organization should endorse Japan’s policy of posting the content of licensing exams on the Website of its health ministry for open review.  Other governments should do the same to develop worldwide appraisals of doctors’ knowledge and abilities.

Improved competency of doctors and health worker would follow from the results of licensing exams accepted by a bloc of nations oriented toward global licenses and from the results of local/regional certificates that assure knowledge, for example, of everyday Japanese words, rules for accepting government insurance payments and parasites endemic to a locality.

I welcome questions or comments on an alternative to medical and dental schools.

DARYL BEACH, Doctor of Dental Medicine, Osaka