The medical English program at Hongo,
The University of Tokyo's Faculty of Medicine

Christopher Holmes (
Office of International Academic Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo
Tokyo, Japan

20 November 2002

Who I am and what I do:

Ex-translator (medical, etc.,), teacher for 15 years
Resident of Japan 23+ years
Not an MD
     20+ years of experience with medical English & Japanese
     Knowledge of Latin, etc.

I am a "Foreign member of the teaching staff" (medical English instructor) at the University of Tokyo, where for the past 3.5 years I have taught:

Undergraduate Medical English electives
Undergraduate English for the Health Sciences (electives)
Graduate (& undergraduate) oral presentation training
Support for English-language exposure programs
     (ER Evening, etc.)
Undergraduate Medical English 1 & 2
     (Recently made requirements for 1st and 2nd year students)

My students are:

1st, 2nd, and 3rd year med students
     (i.e., future doctors: M1s, M2s, M3s)
Health Sciences and Nursing department students
     (3rd and 4th year college students, nurses)
Graduate students
     (mostly foreign students, medicine and pharmacology, etc.)
Doctors, nurses, technicians at the University of Tokyo Hospital

When I teach:

Afternoon and early evening
Sixty- or ninety-minute periods
     (Too short: will be lengthened)
Ten- to fourteen-week courses

What courses do I teach?

Medical English 1 & 2
English for the Health Sciences 1 & 2
Oral Presentation Training (with Joseph Green)
ER Evenings
Medical English 3 (Clinical Spoken English, elective, with Joseph Green)

Mission statement
The goals of the University of Tokyo Faculty of Medicine's Medical English program are:

to improve students' passive and active command of English through development of reading, writing, and speaking skills (language instruction),
to increase students' medical vocabulary and thereby their understanding of medicine (enrichment),
to accustom students to non-Japanese norms and behavior (acculturation),
to prepare students to function in non-Japanese professional settings (preparation for overseas internships and active participation in international conferences), and
to humanize students' medical education (re-humanization).

Assumptions underlying the current Medical English 1 & 2 program:

Given the limited time and staff resources, only modest goals are feasible;
The instructor should impose only minimal demands;
Activating students' passive vocabulary is more beneficial than teaching medical terms;
Students should be given little or no homework because of exam pressures in other courses;
     However, homework, if given, should have follow-up;
No textbook is needed.

Goals of Medical English 1 & 2:

To acquaint all med students with how case presentations are done in English;
To encourage students' active use of English by facilitating discussions, as much as possible on medical topics;
To prepare students to introduce themselves and converse intelligibly in English;
To encourage the asking of questions;
To increase exposure to real English, especially spoken English.

What students do in the new, required Medical English 1 & 2 classes:

Medical English 1

Strict attendance requirement
On-going grouping and regrouping by ability, by accident
Viewing of audiovisual materials (QuickTime movies)
Activation of students' current English level
     Some listening,
     Some note-taking,
     Some summarizing...
     But mostly discussions.
Familiarization with self-introductions, case presentations

Medical English 2

Written personal self-introductions by all students
Case presentations
     Passage from "Five Patients," by Michael Crichton
     Cases from "Morning Report, Internal Medicine" by Archer, Young, and Mazzaferri
Discussions on medical topics
     Infectious diseases, cancer, medical education

The modest requirements:

Attendance and participation
     Name cards
     Excuses by e-mail, in English
In class, ENGLISH ONLY (including instructions)
No exam

What students do in English for the Health Sciences 1 & 2:

Watching and listening to Focus on Health videos
Self-introductions related to the video topic
     (First experiences with alcohol, etc.)
Reporting "What I learned in class today"

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