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BMC Med Educ. 2005 Sep 15;5:33.

Lessons learned in developing family medicine residency training programs in Japan.

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Kashima Hospital, Kashima City, Japan.



While family medicine is not well established as a discipline in Japan, a growing number of Japanese medical schools and training hospitals have recently started sougoushinryoubu (general medicine departments). Some of these departments are incorporating a family medicine approach to residency training. We sought to learn from family medicine pioneers of these programs lessons for developing residency training.


This qualitative project utilized a long interview research design. Questions focused on four topics: 1) circumstances when becoming chair/faculty member; 2) approach to starting the program; 3) how Western ideas of family medicine were incorporated; and 4) future directions. We analyzed the data using immersion/crystallization to identify recurring themes. From the transcribed data, we selected representative quotations to illustrate them. We verified the findings by emailing the participants and obtaining feedback.


Participants included: five chairpersons, two program directors, and three faculty members. We identified five lessons: 1) few people understand the basic concepts of family medicine; 2) developing a core curriculum is difficult; 3) start with undergraduates; 4) emphasize clinical skills; and 5) train in the community.


While organizational change is difficult, the identified lessons suggest issues that merit consideration when developing a family medicine training program. Lessons from complexity science could inform application of these insights in other countries and settings newly developing residency training.

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