Arriving in Tokyo, the signs and maps impenetrable, and rush hour a torrential flood of determined faces in swirls and eddies through the halls of the seven level central station. Without a guide, it would be almost impossible to find one’s way. Thankfully Miki Inoue and Hiroshi Takayanagi, residents in family medicine with Professor Ryuki Kassai, met me at Narita Airport and led me by the hand (almost) to the BMJ-Fukishima Medical University conjoint conference with the Japanese Academy of Family Medicine at Tokyo University.
Professors Cindy Lam (Hong Kong), Chris van Weel, (the Netherlands and President of Wonca), Chris del Mar (Australia) and myself, lectured and mentored researchers at the symposium. There were up to 600 delegates.
The enthusiasm and commitment was impressive and the excitement palpable as family medicine, a relatively new discipline in Japan, enters a phase of rapid growth.
Professor Ryuki Kassai, the driving force behind this initiative has clearly encouraged a whole new generation of committed family doctors and uncovered a cohort of very capable future leaders.
If western primary care research feels disadvantaged in comparison to specialist medicine we can only admire the energy of our Japanese colleagues in an environment where research does not pay, the common perception is of inferiority in family medicine and, a research agenda traditionally dictated by others.
But, if family practice follows the incredibly successful pathways of Japanese industry, we witnessed the birth of the future powerhouse. Perhaps one lesson they could learn from our mistakes is that the early pioneers must encourage, facilitate and promote this new generation of leaders to allow them to flourish.
What a stunning place. Sayonara.
Domhnall MacAuley is Primary Care Editor, BMJ
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