OCEAN TEST: Japanese Medical Technology Students Partner with UH Med Tech to Sample Waikiki Waves

Hawai`i — a hub of international traffic, where there is an incredible convergence of cultural diversity from all parts of the world — is a natural place for scientific collaboration. The University of Hawai`i’s (UH) John A. Burns School of Medicine Department of Medical Technology capitalized on the opportunity to team up with its counterpart from Niigata, Japan.

Medical Technology at UH is the only accredited baccalaureate program in Hawai`i to develop qualified medical lab professionals. Graduating its first class in 1946, the program has been extremely successful.

“In the past five years, 100% of UH graduates have passed the national certification exam from the American Society for Clinical Pathology on their first attempts, earning their professional credentials (national average is about 80%),” explained Department Chair Dick Teshima.

The program offers a career-pathway curriculum where students start at the Kapi`olani Community College Medical Lab Technician program (two-year Associate in Science degree). Continuing the studies for two more years at Mānoa campus culminates in a Bachelor of Science degree, and the next professional level of Medical Lab Scientist.

Founded in 1996, Niigata University of Health and Welfare’s (NUHW) is a new institution in northern Japan. In its Medical Technology program, students study not only medical lab methods, but also bioengineering, mechanical engineering and material engineering. These added skills make their graduates more marketable in Japan. There are 76 Medical Technology programs in Japan, most of which are in four-year baccalaureate colleges with curricula that are very similar to those in the U.S.

Since 2011, NUHW has been sending a group of mostly first and second year students to UH to study with local students; to date, five groups have visited UH. For a week, they engage in subjects such as parasitology, blood banking and clinical chemistry, all of which are conducted in English. Some of the subjects are familiar to them, but they are also introduced to topics that they have not yet learned. Mornings are spent in an intensive English program offered through another college at UH.

Niigata students at UH Mānoa preparing culture media to test Waikiīkī seawater.

Niigata students at UH Mānoa preparing culture media to test Waikiīkī seawater.

During the week of March 24, 2014, seventeen seniors came to Hawai`i to collect data that would be used in their research theses. Working together with Hawai`i students, they tested urine samples collected from themselves and from Hawai`i students for sodium levels that would be correlated with differences in dietary habits between Hawai`i and Japan. Some of them wore Holter monitors for 24 hours to measure changes in their heart ECG patterns to study the effect of jet lag. Seawater samples from Waikīkī beach were collected over a period of six hours to monitor bacterial counts. Happily, the counts seemed very low. In addition, ultraviolet radiation strengths were measured, and they collected cigarette butts at the beach as another part of their research — park goers thanked them for cleaning the park. Over the next few months, they plan to analyze the data into formal theses that would be presented at a scientific conference in Japan.

Niigata students, with a Hawai`i student, doing chemical testing on urine samples, in the Medical Technology lab at UH Mānoa.

Niigata students, with a Hawai`i student, doing chemical
testing on urine samples, in the Medical Technology lab at UH Mānoa.

The University of Hawai`i values the close relationship with its Asian and the Pacific neighbors. Collaboration by Medical Technology programs at UH and NUHW offers a uniquely international experience as students learn about their common profession.

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