“We were mostly observing other dentists and surgeons, but we were also lucky enough to get a bit of hands-on experience. If you showed a lot of interest they allowed you to do more instead of just watching. In one of the procedures, the surgeon let me screw in a surgical plate. That was the highlight of my placement.” - Prashant Krishna
JCU dentistry students Johnny Chen, Erica Jorgensen and Prashant Krishna spent one month on observational clinical placement in Japan. They were based at Kyoto University Hospital for three weeks, shadowing the general dentists and oral surgeons working there.
Having studied Japanese in high school, Erica wanted to use the placement as an opportunity to improve her language and communication skills.
“I wanted to go on this placement so I could see how dentistry is done overseas. JCU thought we would be a great mixed group to go because we’ve all got different outlooks on dentistry, and we’re all representing the University from different cultures and backgrounds,” Erica explained.
Prior to commencing their placement, the group decided to spend one week exploring Tokyo, where they visited museums, Tokyo Disneyland, the zoo, and shopping districts such as Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinjuku. Coming from rural towns, Erica and Prashant found visiting Tokyo a shock to the system.
“It was massive – congested and extremely busy. The whole city seemed like a maze to me, but it was a good experience and everyone was really nice to us. Even though there was a language barrier, they really tried to make us feel welcome,” Prashant said.
Upon arriving in Kyoto, the trio were assigned a mentor who could speak English. He helped translate medical histories, prepare notes, and explain procedures to the group. The placement was heavily surgery-focused, which is generally not taught in Australia until postgraduate studies.
“Kyoto University Hospital has one of the best maxillofacial surgery units in the world. We got to see a wide variety of procedures, such as emergency dentistry, tooth extractions, jaw fracture surgeries and growth removals,” Johnny said.
“We were mostly observing other dentists and surgeons, but we were also lucky enough to get a bit of hands-on experience. If you showed a lot of interest they allowed you to do more instead of just watching. In one of the procedures, the surgeon let me screw in a surgical plate. That was the highlight of my placement,” Prashant said.
The placement required the students to work long hours, but Johnny, Erica, and Prashant were able to spend one weekend exploring Osaka. Johnny also took the opportunity to visit Kurama, a small, traditional village on the foot of a mountain – an experience he considers the highlight of his trip.
Although the group learnt a lot about surgical theory and practice, the students also gained other lifelong skills and valuable professional assets.
“Before I went to Japan, I couldn’t deal with the sight of blood – I would pass out, but I wasn’t going to let that stand in my way. I explained this to the doctors and they helped me rise above that, which was a great personal achievement. I’ve also made lots of friends and I’m regularly communicating with them online, so I’m improving my language skills,” Erica said.
Having returned to Australia, Johnny, Erica, and Prashant are now completing two six-month placements before graduating at the end of 2016. Erica has been to Mount Isa, Prashant to Launceston, and Johnny to Darwin.
Feature image: Johnny Chen