Developing a medical English curriculum embedded in the organ-based medical curriculum of Tokyo Medical University

Natsumi Rajesh

18 May 2005

In 2004, Tokyo Medical University was selected as a model participant in the Good Supportive Program for Modern Educational Needs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and is establishing an integrated English education curriculum for medical students.

As part of the program, the International Medical Communications Center (IMCC), in close cooperation with the coordinators responsible for each organ-based medical module, is currently developing a textbook for the 3rd- and 4th-year medical English curriculum, which will be embedded in the organ-based medical curriculum. This way of giving medical English classes is an utterly new trial. I am engaged in the development of the textbook.


What English skills should medical students acquire?


First of all, medical students should have a good knowledge of technical terms and the ability to read specialized papers. They, however, are also required to have knowledge of layperson’s terms and communication skills. When they become doctors, they have to explain to patients about the body functions and diseases, in plain words which are familiar to the patients. Therefore, learning such English for Medical Purposes (EMP) is one big goal for the medical students.



The contents of the classes


The medical English classed embedded in the organ-based medical curriculum consist of four sections: terminology, clinical concepts, medical interview, and reading. In the terminology section, students learn technical terms. In the clinical concepts section, they read an English text which is a summary of what they learn in each organ-based medical module, and answer questions about the text. In the medical interview section, they practice conversations held between doctors and patients, using the book ‘English for Doctors’. In the reading section, they read the introduction sections of articles from the New England Journal of Medicine, and answer questions about the text.



What is my procedure for developing the textbook?


The IMCC develops the textbook, using materials provided by the coordinators. Of the four sections the students are going to learn, I work, most of my time, on the clinical concepts and reading sections. When the coordinators give the materials for these sections, the procedure for developing the textbook is 1) reading the original material texts, 2) translation into English, and 3) making exercises.



At the first step, I found it very difficult to read and understand the texts without basic medical knowledge, even if they are written in Japanese. General books about medicine are useful for me to obtain the knowledge even if they include no technical terms, because they give me necessary concepts about the body functions and diseases.

 If the texts the coordinators provide are written in Japanese, the second step is required. Translating the texts into English, I became aware that I had to be careful about the relationship between the subject and the verb.

 Finally, I make questions which students are going to answer after reading the English texts. The main condition for the questions I make is not to ask the students about medical knowledge that is not mentioned in the texts.


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