On October 21, Navicent Health and Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia welcomed six physicians, one nurse, and one dietitian from Kurobe City Hospital for the sixteenth year of a unique medical exchange between Macon-Bibb County and its sister city of Kurobe, Japan.
Each summer, between May and September, three physicians and two nurses from Navicent Health visit Kurobe City Hospital for two weeks each to share their knowledge and experience of the American healthcare system with young physicians and nurses at Kurobe City Hospital and to learn about the Japanese healthcare system. Then, between September and January, six resident physicians one nurse, and one healthcare provider from Kurobe City Hospital visit Navicent Health and Mercer University for four weeks to observe American physicians in action and experience American healthcare firsthand. To date, 81 residents and healthcare providers, 14 nurses and 5 paramedics from Kurobe have visited Macon-Bibb County, and 44 doctors and 20 nurses from Macon-Bibb County have visited Kurobe.
“This has been a long-time partnership and exchange built on knowledge transfer for the mutual benefit of all partners. Beyond the formal goals of this partnership is a special bond which connects us with each other, a profound and meaningful cultural exchange,” said Dr. Ninfa M. Saunders, President and CEO of Navicent Health. “Our residents, nurses and faculty were greatly inspired by your visit. When we started this program in 2003, the major purpose was to give assistance to our residents. That was the start of this exchange. Later, we expanded this program to the nurses and also the doctors. Now we are expanding this program to other providers such as pharmacists, medical engineers and therapists. We appreciate both Navicent Health and Mercer University,” said Dr. Hiroshi Tsuji of Kurobe Municipal Hospital, who accompanies the delegations on each visit as they commence their training and continue their education. This year, Navicent Health honored Dr. Hiroshi Tsuji for his contributions to the exchange program. This was Dr. Tsuji's last visit to Macon, as he will retire next March.
The medical exchange began in March 2003, when a delegation from Kurobe City Hospital visited Mercer University and The Medical Center, Navicent Health to discuss the possibility of setting up a medical exchange between the two cities. Plans were formalized on November 5, 2003 with a signing of the agreement between Dr. W. Douglas Skelton, Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, Mercer University; Dr. Ann C. Jobe, Dean, Mercer University School of Medicine; Dr. Louis Goolsby, Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, Medical Center of Central Georgia; Mr. Yukikazu Ogino, Mayor of the City of Kurobe; and Dr. Eisuke Takazakura, Director-General, Kurobe City Hospital. Dr. T.J. Lin, Assistant Dean of the Mercer University School of Medicine, played a key role in facilitating the partnership.
The sister city relationship between Macon and Kurobe was established in 1977 with the support of YKK, whose manufacturing headquarters is located in Kurobe. YKK’s Atlanta office opened in 1970, making it the first Japanese companies to set up operations in Georgia. YKK’s Macon plant opened in 1974. YKK remains an active supporter of this sister city relationship, including the medical exchange.