Blog #3 – A Journey to Be Cherished

I still cannot believe that this is my last week in Japan. Although I am sad to be leaving, I am happy to say that I do not have any regrets. Every day I was here, I tried something new, whether it was something big like going to Kyoto or something minor like trying the standing noodle shop across from my apartment. The last time I was in Japan for a one-month study abroad program, I only had time to experience “touristy” areas of Tokyo – such as the Tokyo SkyTree or Sinsoji Temple. However, this time, living in a quieter part of the city and having a work-like schedule, I was really able to experience the quieter side of everyday living in Japan – and able to eat traditional Japanese food at non-chain restaurants that are way less expensive than in the city!


As mentioned in my previous posts, this internship experience has strongly enhanced my understanding of what it means to be an effective ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. And, these skills of effective communication, active listening, and compassionate attention are highly transferable to other professions, such as serving a physician. However, this week, I was able to experience another side of both our ESL student and his role as an orthopedic surgeon. He kindly allowed me to observe the many surgeries that he and his team had to perform on Friday, from 9 a.m. to about 6 p.m. Word cannot express how excited I was to observe these surgeries because although I had observed several different specialties in America, I was never able to observe a surgery.


Two major aspects stuck out to me as I accompanied the surgeons that day: teamwork and encouragement. Throughout the surgery, there were two surgeons, a technician, an anesthesiologist, and a nurse. To provide each surgeon rest, the two surgeons rotated on who was the primary active surgeon for each consecutive patient – I noticed that having two surgeons allowed the active one to have a second pair of eyes as he performed the surgery and also allowed rest for each surgeon. With this also comes encouragement. In one of the rooms, the surgeons mainly performed minimally invasive surgeries where surgical instruments and an endoscope are inserted into about 3-4 smaller incision – rather than opening up the patient’s shoulder.  This is a very difficult task because the surgeon must make sutures and incisions on the patient’s joints by simply looking at a screen displaying the view of the endoscope. During one of the surgeries, one of the physicians accidentally cut the wrong suture thread – making him have to do the entire suture over. Although he was frustrated with his mistake at first, his surgeon partner encouraged him that it was fine and that it has happened to many before in these kinds of surgeries involving several threads.


The encouragement, however, was not only within the team but was also felt by me, an outsider. Although I haven’t started medical school yet, several of the surgeons had once studied in America and were very interested in learning about my aspirations and where I came from (many of them actually had friends who did research at U of M and mentioned that they heard great things of Ann Arbor). As I talked with many different doctors and observed their teamwork in healing patient’s joint issues, I sensed the real passion and compassion expressed by each surgeon there. Providing wellness and health to a community through teamwork and cooperation is exactly what they displayed and is what I aspire to become part of in the future.


My experience here in Japan has been something that I will cherish for a lifetime. I have gained so many skills and new personal goals from observing the care for each other and the surrounding environment that I have experienced through interactions here. If I had to concisely express my modified aspirations as both an individual and a developing physician, I would say that I hope to live a simple, minimalistic life, focusing energy towards the wellness of both myself and those around me through self-care and genuine compassion. Thank you, U of M for this unforgettable journey.

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