Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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IPE: Interview with Prof. H. Watanabe, Gunma University, Japan


Julian Fisher (JF) interviews Profesor Hideomi Watanabe (HW)Dean, Gunma University Graduate School of Health Sciences and Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences.

 JF: Welcome Prof Watanabe, we are very pleased to have you starting this blogging section on Interprofessional Education (IPE). Through the lens of your institution’s experiences and drawing upon a regional perspective, how has IPE been implemented across the Western Pacific Region (WPR), what are some of the key results / findings, particularly from the WPR regional survey; ?

HW: Survey research examining the attitudes of deans of medical schools towards Interprofessional Education (IPE) and collaborative practice (CP) has been conducted in Western Pacific Region (WPR) countries in 2011 [1]. Only 6 out of 35 responding schools delivered IPE programs. Although many deans of medical schools had positive attitudes, respondents also reported that it is not easy to introduce IPE in their academic setting. Barriers reported to limit IPE promotion included rigid curriculum, lack of financial resources, and problems with schedule/calendar and classroom size.

The All Together Better Health Conference (ATBH) is a leading international IPE and CP conference convened biennially. In October 2012 the sixth conference (ATBH VI) was held in Kobe, Japan, i.e., in Asia for the first time [2]. There were eighty-six presentations from WPR countries including New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Republic of Korea as well as Japan and Australia. In the fifth ATBH conference held in Australia in 2010, Papers were presented by 57, 4, and one research groups from Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, respectively. This indicates that IPE initiatives have recently been promoted in WPR as well. The presentation from Korean researchers showing cultural barriers due to Confucianism which could be overcome by young health professionals’ perception was interesting [3].


JF: Did the survey identify any common success factors and challenges in terms of implementing IPE ? for example within institutional governance and planning, country examples of sustainable ­financing ?

HW: Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) supports a variety of efforts to reform universities in a competitive environment through national, public and private universities, with the objective of invigorating higher education and encouraging excellent education and research activities which utilize each university’s individuality and particular characteristics [4]. Several Japanese institutions have developed and systemically implemented systematic IPE programs. The initiatives of these institutions have been approved as Good Practices, by the Japanese Government, and, as a result, such institutions have obtained financial support for their IPE programs, the Competitive Research Grants from MEXT. Japan Interprofessional Working and Education Network (JIPWEN) has been established in June 28, 2008 by these institutes, and consists of ten (now eleven) universities [5]. The JIPWEN aims to discuss critical issues of IPE together and to present plural models widely so that institutions who are interested in the IPE programs can adapt the models to their academic and social settings. JIPWEN advocates and strengthens the IPE activities. The JIPWEN activities are mostly planned and implemented based on collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) through Gunma University as the coordinator university of the JIPWEN and WHO Collaborating Centre.

JIPWEN universities have their unique educational organizations which play an important role in IPE management with strong leadership under President or Dean of the schools, such as ‘The Planning and Evaluation Core Group’ in Sapporo Medical University, ‘Center of Planning and Coordination for Medical Education (PCME)’ in University of Tsukuba, ‘Interprofessional Collaboration Promotion Committee’ in Chiba University, ‘Kobe University Interprofessional Education for Collaborative Work Center’ in Kobe University, and ‘Interprofessional Education Committee of Gunma University (IPEC-GU)’ in Gunma University. These organizations, as driving force, prepare an annual plan, organize preparatory and management meetings, implement faculty development, communicate with university hospitals and local facilities, supervise academic staff, evaluate and analyze the achievements, and compile reports [5]. Through these organizations IPE is incorporated into diverse professions’ curricula.

IPE program was implemented in only School of Health Sciences until the approval of the Good Practice in Gunma University. The acquisition of the Grant has brought changes in the academic setting of the faculty of medicine, resulting in the development of a cooperative system among the academic staff in the School of Medicine, resulting in the participation of medical students in IPE program. Public funding helped improve the IPE environment, in addition to providing financial support [5]. Governmental support plays an important role in promoting IPE program in academic settings.


JF: On the basis of your institutional experiences, what were the results with respect to IPE and attitudes towards collaborative practice ?

HW: WHO has just issued the WHO Education Guidelines 2013: Transforming and scaling up health professionals' education and training in this month. In the Guidelines IPE is recommended as one of the Transforming and scaling up health professionals' education and training. However, evaluation of the impact of IPE on health professionals’ practice is depicted as research agenda [6]. The cross-sectional study on change in attitudes toward collaborative practice in our University students revealed that third-year students’ scores were significantly increased in response to training-style IPE class, whereas the first-year students’ scores were significantly decreased after the lecture-style IPE class [7]. Furthermore, the overall scores of alumni were shown to be significantly lower than those of undergraduate students who had just finished the training-style program [8]. These results correspond well to the longitudinal study in other educational institutes. Research survey measuring change over time is in progress.


1. Lee B, et al. Attitudes of medical school deans towards interprofessional education in Western Pacific Region countries. J. Interprof. Care, 2012, 26: 479-83.

2. All Together Better Health VI: The 6th International Conference for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. Programme & Abstract book. October 5-8, 2012, Kobe, Japan.

3. Lee Y, Han K, Ahn D. Young health professionals’ perception of IPE in South Korea. Symposium, Transformative sale up of health professional education in Asia. ATBH VI, October 7, 2012, Kobe, Japan.


5. Advanced Initiatives in Interprofessional Education in Japan, H.Wanatanbe, M.Koizumi. eds, Springer Tokyo, 2009

6. World Health Organization (2013) WHO Education Guidelines: Transforming and scaling up heath professionals’ education and training. Geneva: World Health Organization.

7. Hayashi T, et al. Changes in attitudes toward interprofessional health care teams and education in the first and third year undergraduate students. J. Interprof. Care, 2012, 26: 100-107.

8. Makino T, et al. Attitudes toward interprofessional healthcare teams: A comparison between undergraduate students and alumni. J. Interprof. Care, 2013, 27:261-268.

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