ACPHS In The News

Japan is Back in Rotation

L-R: Kaito Tsutsui, Atalya Morgan, Hana Nishikawa and Ayaka Yamada
October 30, 2023

Kaito Tsutsui was surprised to learn that prior to the COVID pandemic – before he embarked on the professional portion of his pharmacy training – there had been an option for ACPHS students to complete a clinical rotation in Tokyo. 

So when he found out it was being reinstated, he jumped at the opportunity, which aligned perfectly with his plans. Tsutsui was born in Japan and lived there until he was 13 before immigrating to the United States. He intends to go back.

“I look forward to working as a pharmacist in Japan in the future,” Tsutsui said. “I wanted to know what it feels like to work there.”

Tsutsui and Atalya Morgan were the first two ACPHS pharmacy students to return to Japan in May 2023 after a four-year hiatus of the rotation. It is among several international programs the ACPHS Office of Experiential Education is working to launch or reinstate now that COVID-19 restrictions have loosened worldwide.

The agreement with Showa University in Tokyo also allows two Japanese students to complete a rotation at ACPHS. Associate Professor Dr. Ray Chandrasekara has served as preceptor for Showa University students here since 2009.

Now engaged in clinical rotations in the U.S., Tsutsui said he was struck by notable differences in the countries’ pharmacy practices. In Japan, he said, fewer pharmaceutical therapies are prescribed overall, as many patients are more comfortable with natural, traditional or homeopathic medicine. And Japanese patients, however they might feel about their medical condition or treatment, are consistently polite, he said, loath to express anger or frustration at a pharmacist or other medical professional.

Morgan, originally from Binghamton, said her biggest takeaway from the Japanese rotation was the opportunity to compare differences in the countries’ health systems. Hana Nishikawa and Ayaka Yamada, the two Japanese students who finished their rotations in Albany on Oct. 28, made similar observations.

The students expressed some dismay at the higher out-of-pocket costs, often associated with diminished access, in the American health system. In Japan, medical costs are regulated by the government, as is the percentage of the medical fee that patients must pay.

However, Morgan also noted that Japanese doctors were required to see many patients to earn sufficient pay.

“There’s things the two countries can take away from each other,” she said.

Nishikawa and Yamada said they were delighted when they arrived in the United States to see most people no longer wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID, as they are still widely worn in Japan. They were happy to see people’s smiles.

“People are so kind and friendly here,” Yamada said. 

Through the agreement with Showa University, ACPHS students in the final year of the pharmacy doctoral program attend Showa for six weeks in May and June. Slots for Spring 2024 are already filled by two students, SeHan Jeong and Katarina Scali, who will enter their final year in the ACPHS pharmacy doctorate program in May. Both said they were excited to have this international rotation reinstated.

“This opportunity is such an immersive experience that allows for professional growth in a different cultural setting,” Jeong said.

Applications for May 2025 will be accepted in early Fall 2024.