Work in the Medical Field
Occasionally I get enquiries about work in the medical field, so I went to talk to Guy Harris D.O, the CEO of Digital Medical Communications (DMC). Guy's company develops telemedicine and e-care platforms and services. Guy himself, has been in Japan 16 years, starting off in the rewriting and editing field for pharmaceutical companies, then branching out into telemedicine in 1995.
T: What areas of the medical field are presently open to job seekers?
GH: In the clinical field, i.e. Medical Doctors and Nurses, there is not lot of opportunity. It is difficult to practice medicine in Japan if you didn't obtain your license here ﾐ particularly so if you want to practice privately. However, it is not so difficult for non-MD health services like Psychology, Dietetics, and Chiropractic services, as these fields are largely unregulated and are thus open to all-comers. The problem here, is that Japanese are not yet used to using such services and you are therefore currently limited to a relatively small expatriate population.
Specialist foreign MDs wishing to work in Japan can sometimes gain work in university or public hospitals under a government initiative known as ﾔRinsho Shuren Seidoﾕ administered by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. This is somewhat of an exchange system whereby the aim is to have Japanese MDs gain experience offshore and have local MDs exposed to advanced foreign medical practice here in Japan. People working under this system are unlikely to be tenured however, and such contracts typically last only 1-3 years.
T: How do you go about getting work in Japan's medical industry?
GH: In terms of working for a university or public hospital, applications need to be made directly to the relevant hospital and can be made from offshore. In general however, the medical industry in Japan is one of the least internationalized and people still operate in small insider communities. Therefore, being in the loop and knowing people is important, although I've occasionally seen some jobs advertised in newspapers. If you have Japanese colleagues working in closely similar fields to your own, they are an obvious place to start. Once you've made the right contacts and established your credentials as a ﾔlike-minded person,ﾕ the doors of opportunity may open nicely.
You can also find medical writing and editing opportunities through organizations such as SWET (Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators). As well as this, there are many translation companies in the field, which actually may be the easiest and most obvious route to getting in. You can find these companies in the telephone yellow pages and on web search engines.
T: You mentioned that you did medical rewriting and editing when you first started working here in Japan. How easy is it to still get this kind of work?
GH: Well it still exists, but times have changed. These days, groups of old-timers have cornered a lot of the market for this kind of work, so you have to look harder for steady volume and a decent pay rate. The rates have also come down considerably. Medical rewriting currently pays JPY2,000-3,000 per page- it used to be that you could get JPY10,000 or more per page.
T: What about job openings for science grads and postgrads?
GH: Although not a job opportunity, foreign researchers (usually with a high level of Japanese) can come to Japan to do a higher degree ﾐ typically a PhD. The government and some Japanese medical universities offer a variety of scholarships. These scholarships can be quite worthwhile, covering much of the basic costs of being here. One possible problem in taking the scholarship route though, is that as you get deeper into the system, you run the risk of getting loaded up with administrative work that has absolutely nothing to do with getting your PhD. Indeed, this is all part of a bigger problem that foreign researchers have in Japan with the academic "glass ceiling."
T: Is there an entry point for research scholarships?
GH: As a first point of contact, I'd go to the Monbusho (MEXT) and ask them about opportunities. There may also be alumni groups, although it's hard to imagine that there have been enough people having done a scholarship at a Japanese university to provide the momentum for such a group. Some of the larger institutions have foreign student liaison offices.
T: What about people with medical experience but who can't find work in their primary fields?
GH: Well you can always teach medical English. It pays reasonably well, certainly above the regular English teaching wage, at about JPY3,500 per hour or more. There is a small group of hirers for this type of position, but typically you'd find opportunities at medical schools around the nation. These schools need such expertise because their researchers and academics need to publish papers internationally in order to climb the career ladder. The old adage, "Publish or perish," holds true in Japan just as it does elsewhere in the world. No one really knows, but I should imagine that there are probably only a few hundred people teaching medical English in Japan.
Dr Harris is not a recruiter, however, he invites enquiries from colleagues in the medical profession who would like to know what is going on in Japan. His e-mail address is email@example.com