EHC Newsletter #1

February 18, 2017

Message from the Director

Dear Participants,

Greetings from San Francisco and welcome again to the 2017 Exploring Health Care (EHC) Program! We are four weeks away from the start of your journey into the exciting world of comparative medicine. With that in mind, the staff team and I are working hard to create a challenging, culturally enriching, and unforgettable experience that will help you grow as medical students and future doctors. Over the course of two intensive weeks, you will deepen your knowledge about a variety of topics ranging from clinical English and organ transplantation to creative medicine and virtual reality technology, among others!

Please carefully read the remainder of this newsletter. It contains important information and reminders to help you successfully prepare for joining the program in March. Between now and your arrival in San Francisco, you will receive several communications from our team, so don't forget to check your email regularly, including spam and junk folders!

We look forward to meeting you in person in the near future! Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me (, Assistant Program Director Cira Ortiz (, or Operations Director Melissa Golden ( for assistance.

Be well,

Ellison Weeks

Medical Programs Director

James Thomas, MD, Faculty In Residence

James is a UK-trained physician currently working in Tokyo, Japan. As a medical student, he participated in a clinical clerkship in Hokkaido and became interested in Japanese healthcare, language and culture. After graduating as a doctor, he underwent clinical training in Sheffield, England, and worked in primary care and pediatrics before moving to Japan in April 2012. He now devotes the majority of his time to medical education and teaches students and junior residents within Keio University and Hospital.

Outside of medicine James enjoys rock climbing, photography and language study. He is excited to be given the opportunity to be a part of VIA and is looking forward

supporting, contributing, and learning from everyone else involved in the program.

Cira Ortiz, Assistant Program Director

Cira Ortiz grew up in Los Angeles and earned her Bachelor's in Cognitive Science from Occidental College. After graduating she went to Fukuoka on the JET Programme where she worked as an Assistant Language teacher for 5 years. After returning to LA she went to Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey to get her Master's degree in International Business. She was also the Assistant Program Director for the VIA MED 2016 program. She has always had an interest in medicine and is happy to be working for the EHC program.

In her spare time she likes to knit, draw and bake! She looks forward to meeting all of you and to having interesting conversations with you.

Chia-Ying Lee, Global Health Fellow

Chia-Ying graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a bachelor of science in Neuroscience and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology. She is interested in global medicine, virtual and simulation medicine, and medical education. She was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States to join her family. Her initial challenges navigating through medical and education systems sparked her interest in international medicine and education.

In her free time, Chia-Ying enjoys spending time with her family, reading a good book, writing, and exploring new cultures. Chia-Ying is looking forward to participate in the Global Health Fellow Program to explore the different perspectives of medicine, share her experiences with the American and Taiwanese health system, and to broaden her medical horizon.

Yuki Enomoto, Nichibei Fellow

Yuki Enomoto, a past participate of VIA MED 2015, experienced a lot of change in many ways. She felt that her world broadened after meeting other active students who studied hard. She really felt that Design Thinking helped her explore new topics and ways of thinking and therefore participated in DSI - Design Thinking Social Innovation Program last spring with a few medical students.

Yuki is the manager of her school's Sumo club. She enjoys supporting the team members and is happy when they achieve their goals. Therefore, she looks forward to supporting all of you and helping you to achieve your goals! She also enjoys Japanese calligraphy and speaking to new people.

Yamato Suemitsu, Nichibei Fellow

Yamato Suemitsu joined the EHC 2015 program and returns to the San Francisco Bay Area as a Nichibei Health Care Fellow. He is honored to support the 2017 cohort on their medical journey this spring. When Yamato participated in the program two years ago, it provided him with a unique chance to evolve from a slightly passive student into a highly motivated and ambitious one. As a senior medical student, he views his role here as not only guiding participants and ensuring that everyone has a meaningful, exciting, and safe experience in the Bay Area but also as sharing specific insights he obtained through his experiences with Japanese and US medical education. In this way, he hopes to be a model student that others can refer to in their medical school years to come. He looks forward to seeing and getting to everyone very soon!

Orientation Website

Want to read more about the staff? Follow this link, or click on "Meet the Staff" above and read staff bios in their entirety!

In addition, the orientation website is home to a lot of useful information such as packing tips, program policies, emergency protocols, etc. Give it a look!

Pending Deadlines

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Don't forget to register for a Pre-Departure Orientation!


The Kansai orientation session will be held on Saturday, February 25th from 13:30 - 16:30 at the Osaka Medical College Nakayama International Center.


The Tokyo orientation session will take place on Sunday, February 26th from 12:00 to 16:30 at the Keio University School of Medicine Center for Integrated Medical Research.

Please indicate your plans for joining a pre-departure orientation session by completing this brief survey by Sunday:

Participants attending the Tokyo session can also join a casual gathering over dinner following the event. Details to follow shortly.


During the first week of the program, you will introduce yourself to the group so that we can get to know you better. Your presentation should include a brief overview of your personal interests, interest in health care and motivation for joining the program and becoming a doctor in the future. Your presentation will be in English. We are interested in communication, not perfect English. Personal pictures are encouraged.

You can see the full guidelines at this link:


If you have not activated your Crew account, now would be a good time to do so!

We are using this new platform to communicate with you and keep you informed about the program before you depart from Japan. The Crew platform contains import information and files that need to be completed prior to joining the program. Don't forget to check off completed tasks!

Also, it's a great place to meet the participants in the program! Read each other's bios, look at each other's profile pictures and build community before you even fly across the ocean. (If you haven't done so yet, now is the time to finish this step!)


We are coordinating with our medical partners to arrange a variety of stimulating activities. A schedule will be shared with you as we approach the start of the program. So stay tuned and keep an eye out for a copy in March!