Development of the Rural Generalist Program Japan: meeting the needs of Japanese rural communities

Rural Remote Health. 2020 Jul;20(3):5746. doi: 10.22605/RRH5746. Epub 2020 Jul 9.


Context: There is a worldwide shortage of physicians, which is worse in rural areas, with a large underserved rural and remote population. Most jurisdictions in countries of all income levels report shortages of rural doctors, often exacerbated where primary care is not strong. Japan is not an exception: Japanese specialist-driven approaches in medical education and public health have resulted in disproportionate distribution of medical services in the country.

Issue: Rural generalism, or rural generalist medicine, is emerging in many jurisdictions as one approach to training and provision of care for rural communities. While there is considerable variation in titles, the format of the training and models of care, the emphasis is on training a generalist doctor capable of meeting community needs. This usually includes development of appropriate skills in primary care, inpatient care, emergency medicine, public health and one or more extended skills. These models are well established in Australia, particularly in Queensland, which has offered a rural generalist program for over a decade. The Rural Generalist Program Japan (RGPJ) has been developed to meet the needs of Japanese rural communities.

Lessons learned: This article outlines development of the RGPJ using the World Federation for Medical Education standards. While early evaluations are positive, there is much more to do to develop a mature program capable of meeting the needs of Japan's rural and remote communities.

Keywords: Japan; medical education; program development; rural generalism; rural medical workforce; training program; assessment and evaluation.