Japanese Family Health Program Celebrates 10 Years of Care
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In Fall 2004, the Japanese Family Health Program (JFHP) at the University of Michigan celebrated ten years of providing culturally sensitive, comprehensive health care services to the population of 6,000 Japanese-speaking people in southeast Michigan.

From modest beginnings in 1994 with a single Japanese patient, the practice has grown via word of mouth and selective advertising. In 2003, the JFHP had an estimated 5,000 visits from Japanese-speaking patients. The program also serves as a regional referral center for Japanese-speaking people throughout the Midwest, and as a paradigm for similar programs that seek to provide quality health care to patients with diverse cultural needs.

The program was conceived and begun by Michael D. Fetters, M.D., M.P.H., M.A., associate professor and a family physician and graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, who developed an interest in Japanese culture after spending a year in Japan as a high school exchange student in 1979. Dr. Fetters, fluent in Japanese, had a vision of providing comprehensive health care services to the Japanese-speaking population of the Ann Arbor/Detroit area.

The program also encompasses an educational component by giving medical students an opportunity to rotate through the JFHP program with its doctors and a nurse practitioner at the Family Medicine at Domino’s Farms clinical practice and interact with Japanese patients. In real-time clinical practice, the students are taught specifics of culturally sensitive care, principles for approaching patients with diverse cultural backgrounds, and how and when to use interpreters during patient encounters. “One of the exciting things about our program is the positive effect of understanding how culture has an impact on clinical outcomes, ” notes Dr. Fetters. The program has also hosted numerous visitors and scholars from Japan including medical students, residents, and physicians.

The JFHP also includes research activities. It is through these research efforts that the impact of culture on health care quality and decision-making can be studied in a clinical setting. Research projects conducted or ongoing include investigations on patients’ preferences for communication about preventive services, a community-oriented project on primary care mental health services, Japanese couples’ experiences with the birthing process in the United States, and the Japanese Health Education Project that develops educational materials and health information for patients.

In response to significant patient demand, the JFHP expanded and recruited another family physician, Masahito Jimbo, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, to join the program. Two other family physicians joined the program in Fall 2006, Karl Rew, M.D., instructor, and Yosuke Fujioka, M.D., Ph.D., instructor. “We are extremely grateful for the many patients and friends who have supported us over the last ten years. It has been an exciting and rewarding decade with much growth. We hope to see many familiar faces at our upcoming open house so we can say ‘thank you’ in person,” says Dr. Fetters.

The Ten-Year Anniversary Open House Celebration and Patient Appreciation Day was held on October 24, 2004. The event featured kids’ games, free giveaways, KoNami Koto Ensemble, White Pine Glee Club, Colors the Clown, make-your-own-Raku pottery, light refreshments, and more.

Picture Gallery. Click to see it larger.





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