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Exploring Health Care Program

Medical Exchange & Discovery Program Overview

July 31 - August 20, 2016


VIA's Medical Exchange and Discovery (MED) Program brings together students from top medical schools in mainland China, Japan, and Taiwan for three weeks of rigorous comparative health care studies. Through visits to medical organizations across the San Francisco Bay Area, guest lectures, and interactive workshops, participants obtain firsthand exposure to the innovative approaches being developed to treat patients from diverse backgrounds. In addition, participants work closely with their peers, including students from Stanford and UCSF, to think critically about the strengths, weaknesses and future direction of health care in their home countries.

The MED Program is offered in two tracks:

Novice Track: emphasizes hands-on simulation activities to develop foundational clinical knowledge and skills that are useful in a variety of medical settings. This track is ideal for 1st and 2nd-year students.

Advanced Track: provides opportunities to deepen clinical knowledge through physician shadowing, USMLE preparation, and medical case study. This track is open to 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th-year students.

Click the picture below to watch the MED promotional video.

MED Promo

Click to download the brochure

Application Deadlines:
Mainland China: April 17th, 2016
Taiwan: April 17th, 2016
Japan: May 7th, 2016

MED Program Overview

What will I do graphic

MED One Day

MED Pie Chart

Timeline & Info Sessions

Application Timeline


Mainland China & Taiwan Japan & Other Regions
Information sessions in Asia March 2016 (see below for details) April 2016 (see below for details)
Application deadline April 17, 2016 May 7, 2016
Application selection results April 19, 2016 May 10, 2016
Interviews April 21-23, 2016 May 10-12, 2016
Orientation meetings May 2 (PKU), May 5
(KMU), May 7 (Taipei)
Mid May (Tokyo)
Payment deadline May 27, 2016 June 15, 2016
Info Sessions in Taiwan
Kaohsiung Medical University TBD TBD
National Yang Ming University,
School of Medicine
March 2, 2016 16:00 - 17:00 @ Conference Room 312, Medical Building
National Taiwan University,
College of Medicine
March 3, 2016 19:00 - 20:00 @ Room 403
Info Sessions in Mainland China
Peking University,
Health Science Center
March 11, 2016 Time and location TBD
Info Sessions in Japan
Juntendo April 19, 2016 12:30 - 13:25 @ 医学部10号館1階105号室
Tokyo Medical University
(medical students from other schools are also welcome to join this session)
April 20, 2016 12:15 - 13:00 @ 第3セミナー室(教育研究棟4階)
Tokyo Women's Medical University
(medical students from other schools are also welcome to join this session)
April 21, 2016 11:40 - 12:30 @ Room 524
Keio University Shinanomachi Campus, School of Medicine April 21, 2016 17:30 - 18:30 @ 総合医科学研究棟会議室6
Ehime University Medical School April 22, 2016 16:30 - 17:30 @ 第2ゼミナール室
Osaka Medical College April 28, 2016 12:00 - 13:00 @ P301

Program Cost

Program fee includes:

- Stanford Dormitory Housing
- Transportation
- Most scheduled activities
- Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)

Program fee total: $4,800

Costs not included in program fee:

- Airfare
- Travel Insurance
- ESTA or Visa Processing fees
- Optional activities
- Personal shopping expenses
- Vaccinations

Note: Program fee payment deadline is May 27, 2016 for students joining from mainland China and Taiwan and June 15, 2016 for students joining from Japan and other regions

Application Overview

Take a bold first step in your journey of inspiration and discovery!

To complete your application, please follow the steps below. You must be 18 years or older to join the MED program.

Application Deadlines:
Mainland China: April 17th, 2016
Taiwan: April 17th, 2016
Japan: May 7th, 2016

Application Details

The online application includes the following sections:

  1. Personal Information - Share some basic details about yourself.
  2. Academic Information - Tell us about your academic background.
  3. Contact Information - Share details so that we can get in touch with you.
  4. Essay Question Responses - Tell us more about yourself and your goals for joining the program. Essay questions include:
    • Why do you want to participate in the MED program? What do you hope to learn or achieve?
    • In order to help give you a better experience during the program, we would like to know more about what topics and health care issues you are interested in. Examples might include organ transplantation, free clinics for the underserved, geriatrics, the healthcare system (including insurance), and the medical education system. (You are welcome to choose a topic that is not listed here.) Please describe one or two topics you are interested in, and why.
    • Why did you choose to become a doctor? How do you hope that this program will impact your studies and career?
    • We would like to get to know you better, so that we can tailor the program to your interests and needs. Please write 1-2 paragraphs describing your hobbies, your character, and your plans after graduation.

Essay-writing tip: Review the questions and begin writing your essays in a Word document. You can take your time and check your English while writing them. When you are finished, you can copy/paste them into your application. This way, you will also have a back-up copy of your essays.

After beginning your application, you will be able to save your progress and continue working on it later. Click the "Apply Now" button to get started!

MED Apply Button


At the end of the application, you will be asked to reserve an interview time. If your application passes the initial selection process, you will receive an email confirming your interview. Interviews will last about 10-15 minutes. If your application is not selected, you will be informed via email and your interview reservation will be cancelled.

Participant Voices

The following are testimonials from past participants of VIA's medical programs:

Maiko Fujita

"During this program, there were so many great opportunities to think about my future and career as a doctor."

- Maiko Fujita, MED 2014 Participant, Tokyo Women's Medical University, Grade 1


"In Arbor Free Clinic, I got to shadow a psychiatry resident, and it's a very special experience to see how the resident does history taking and case reports. I also had a chance to ask questions to a psychiatrist about the mental health system in America."

- Frank Lu, MED 2014 Participant, National Yang-Ming University, Grade 2

Mayu Sakurai

"American medical students had a great impact on my mind! I followed a med student at the VA hospital, and was surprised at the high level of his clinical skills. He worked as one of the team members like a doctor. When he talked with some doctors about the patient's condition I realized I knew very little about it, and not just because of my lack of English skills. This experience made me realize that we need to learn more and gain the ability of turning knowledge into action. Not only the American students but also the Japanese ones inspired me! The participants were highly motivated. We talked about what we learned from some activities and enhanced our knowledge together."

- Mayu Sakurai, EHC 2013 Participant, Tokyo Medical University, Grade 5

Chika Takarada

"The most amazing program ever! In this program I had an awesome time concentrating on medicine in the US, especially Stanford which is famous for medical research and San Francisco which has UCSF and a Veterans Affair hospital. The biggest thing that I got was gaining methods to achieve my purpose, concretely positive attitude, knowledge and English as a tool. It changed my perspective to better one."

- Chika Takarada, EHC 2013 Participant, Showa University - School of Medicine, Grade 2

Kenshiro Taniguchi


"The days I spent in America were truly irreplaceable. I was able to make amazing friends, my motivation increased, and my perspectives widened greatly. At each activity, I had many opportunities to speak, which were very substantial experiences. I definitely recommend this program over just going on a vacation. I wish that everyone will also enjoy such wonderful experience as well."

- Kenshiro Taniguchi, EHC 2013 Participant, Yokohama City Medical University - School of Medicine, Grade 4

Tiffany Liu2

"This program gave me an excellent opportunity to interact with different cultures!!  Not only did I learn a great deal about the American medical system, I also learned a lot about medicine in Japan and also about their culture in general. I feel like what I learned most in this program was to think more, and think about questions, which isn't emphasized in Asian culture. After coming back to Taiwan, I really feel that I have changed, having a broader horizon and a better drive to practice medicine, not to mention making a lot of friends!"

- Tiffany Liu, MED 2013 Participant, National Taiwan University, Grade 3

MED Staff Bios


Ellison Weeks: Program Director (

Ellison is a California native with a passion for developing cross-cultural and immersive experiential learning opportunities for students from diverse walks of life.  He studied intercultural communication and Japanese as an undergraduate, and lived in Japan for two years as an instructor with the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Program. After returning from Japan, he completed graduate studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has managed various cross-cultural exchange programs in East Africa, Latin America and throughout the United States. As a social worker, he developed a passion for helping low-income families access critical medical and mental health services. He is an avid traveler, student of foreign languages and cultures, and enjoys hiking and listening to music with friends in his spare time.

He is excited to work with the MED staff team to prepare a fun, challenging and memorable program experience for the 2016 cohort of medical students from Japan, Taiwan, and mainland China.

Takayuki Oshimi, MD

Takayuki Oshimi, MD: Faculty in Residence 

Dr. Takayuki Oshimi, Assistant Professor of Nihon University School of Medicine in Tokyo, is a program manager of its 6-year comprehensive medical English curriculum. His clinical training was in gastroenterology, and he received training as a medical interpreter and as a trainer of medical interpreting in the United States. Dr. Oshimi also obtained his post-graduate diploma in community interpreting and translation from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He currently devotes the majority of his time to medical education, specialized in medical communications (also known as English for medical purposes) as well as training health care interpreters in local communities. 

Dr. Oshimi has been involved in the development of VIA's medical exchange programs, including EHC 2012, MED 2012, 2013, and 2014 as a faculty advisor, where he enjoyed supporting participants from Japan, Taiwan, and mainland China through his clinical English workshops and night/morning jogging club on campus. He will be running medical English workshops, where we will learn clinical communication skills, including patient encounter communication skills, clinical case presentation skills, and clinical research article discussion in a journal club format. 

Outside of medicine, Dr. Oshimi enjoys reading books, watching movies, and jogging at a comfortable pace. Among his friends, he is also famous for his passion and expertise in Belgian ales. He is excited to be a part of the MED 2016 team to prepare this life-changing cross-cultural program for the 2016 cohort of Asian medical students. 


Summer 2016 staff bios will be added in May


  Frequently Asked Questions


General Questions:

What makes the VIA experience unique?

VIA has over 50 years of experience connecting between Asia and the U.S., and over 35 years of experience running programs bringing Asian students to Stanford and San Francisco. Our participants are able to stay connected to a group of like-minded individuals throughout their careers. Having an Alumni network allows past and present participants to strengthen their personal and professional development. VIA also provides opportunities to contribute to meaningful impact in local organizations in areas that most other exchange organizations don't have access to. 

What is a typical program like?

Each day will be unique and filled with a variety of activities to help you broaden your horizons, sharpen your skills, build strong relationships and deepen your understanding of culturally competent medicine. The program will typically offer activities during the day, including shadowing, medical organization visits, guest speakers and discussions. Evenings are usually devoted to clinical English lessons, cultural and social events as well as personal time. The program is fast-paced and intensive. Please come rested, full of energy and ready to learn!

Why study comparative health care in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area?

Silicon Valley and San Francisco rank among the world's strongest centers for innovation, and are home to premier institutions of biomedical research such as the Stanford University School of Medicine, UCSF Medical Center, and the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. The San Francisco Bay Area is also home to numerous healthcare startups and nonprofit organizations working to solve many of society's most pressing medical challenges. The region is culturally and socioeconomically diverse, and provide a unique opportunity for you to deepen your understanding of what it takes to become a culturally competent medical professional.  

Is English required? How good should my English be?

Yes, all our programs are conducted in English. You should have intermediate English listening, speaking and writing skills. However, our priority is your passion and motivation rather than your English ability. By dedicating yourself to English during our programs, such as asking more questions or sharing your feelings with others, your communication skills will improve and be refined.

Traveling and studying in the U.S:

What do I need to bring with me?

We recommend that you pack one small suitcase and one small bag only. You should be able to carry your own luggage around one city block and up and down stairs. California is often shown as a warm, sunny place with beaches and palm trees. San Francisco, however, is usually cool, often cloudy and windy - even in summertime. It's important to bring cold-weather clothing, like sweatshirts, jackets and umbrellas. We will also be walking around the city a lot, so comfortable shoes are important. 

Other important things to bring are: a camera, laptop, prescription medication, copies of your travel and insurance documents, adapters to charge your electronic devices, and a set of formal clothes. Once you are accepted you will receive a detailed packing list to aid you as you prepare for your travels. 

Should I be worried about safety in California?

Safety is always a concern for VIA. All participants are required to have travelers' insurance, which can provide coverage for medical and other emergencies. Program staff make participants' safety and wellbeing their highest priority at all times. They will arrange or plan transportation routes and accompany participants to all organization visits. 

Violent crime is not common in or prevalent in San Francisco. However, as is true for most major cities, one should take a common-sense approach to safety precautions as one would anywhere else. Carry a good street map and perhaps a cell phone so that you can call your hotel in case you get lost. Do not carry large amounts of cash or wear expensive jewelry. 

What kind of visa will I need? Does VIA issue visa invitation letters?

People from regions listed on the U.S. Department of State's Visa Waiver Program (VWP) (e.g., Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan) do not need to apply for a visa. However, they must register and get authorization to travel with the Electronic Sytem for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Nationals of other regions not listed on the VWP (e.g., China, Hong Kong, and Thailand) must apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa. VIA will issue an invitation letter to all accepted participants, so that they can apply for a visa at their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 

Do I need travel insurance?

For safety purposes, all participants are required to purchase travel insurance and send copies to VIA prior to travel to the U.S. For some students, this can be arranged through their university. Healthcare is extremely expensive in the U.S. Even though the program is short, it is not worth the risk to come without travel insurance. Some credit cards cover medical emergencies, so please check with your credit card provider to see if you are already covered. 

What will happen if there is a problem or emergency during the program?

For minor emergencies (small injuries, illness, etc.), program staff will take care of the participants' immediate needs and accompany them to the hospital if a hospital visit is necessary. For major emergencies (serious injury, illness, or accidents), VIA staff will ensure you receive the care that you need, and notify your family or home university. 

For problems with alcohol/drug use, illegal activity, or breaking program policies, VIA will discuss the incident with the participant (s). Depending on the severity, the participant (s) will receive a warning or, if it is a very serious problem, VIA staff will notify the participant's home university, and potentially send him/her home early. 

What about free time? Will there be opportunities to explore on my own during the program?

The EHC program is designed to be an intensive experience in order to maximize participant impact and learning. However, we understand that proper rest and time off are also beneficial to student learning, bonding and overall wellbeing. You will have one free day to explore San Francisco and the surrounding areas. During the program, there will also be several opportunities to explore Silicon Valley and join other fun activities. 

Questions about MED:

Who can participate in MED?

Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese medical students interested in studying comparative health care and developing their capacity to become empathetic, culturally sensitive medical professionals. 

How long will it take to complete my application?

It depends. The personal information section should only take 1 -2 minutes to fill out. The second part of the application asks you to write several short answers (in English) about yourself and your motivations for joining. The short answer section should be no more than 250 words each and it will help us get to know you better. Depending on your English level and writing ability, it may take 1 - 2 hours. If you can't finish it all at once, you can save it and finish it at a later time. 

What information do I need to complete my application?

For the first step, you will need to provide personal information (name, nationality, year in school) and contact information (email, phone number, Skype ID).

For the second step, you will be asked to provide information about yourself and why you are interested in joining the program.

Finally, you will be asked to tell us when you are available to be interviewed by the Medical Programs Director, Ellison Weeks (interviews usually take 10 -15 minutes).

When will I know if I'm accepted?

We will send out acceptance letters after all applicants have been interviewed - about two weeks after the application deadline. 

What happens after I'm accepted?

You will receive information about the next steps - how to apply for a visa or register with ESTA, how to get travel insurance, how to arrange flights, etc. You will also be invited to join an online group with other participants, so that you can get to know each other better. In addition, you will receive some materials to help you prepare for the program. 

What does the program fee cover?

The program fee covers: Stanford dormitory housing, meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), most scheduled activities, transportation, VIA staff services

Where will I stay during the program?

During the program you will stay at a dormitory located in the heart of the Stanford University campus. You will share a room with another program participant selected to enrich your program experience. 

Who leads the program trainings and activities?

Program activities (orientation, trainings, reflection sessions, organization visits, etc.) are led by the MED staff team. 

How many times will I be able to shadow during the program?

Each participant will be able to join at least one shadowing activity during the program. 

What types of medical facilities will I be able to shadow at?

Past shadowing placements include: UCSF Orthopedic Institute, UCSF Internal Medicine Wards, Stanford Emergency Room, Stanford Pediatrics Department, Pacific Free Clinic, and Arbor Free Clinic 

Are immunizations neccesary in order to shadow in the U.S.?

Yes, in order to shadow at U.S. medical facilities, all participants must be vaccinated against: varicella, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, flu, and tuberculosis. 

What happens if I cannot get all the immunizations?

You can still join the program. However, it will significantly impact your ability to learn in a clinical setting. Immunizations are essential for both your and patients' safety. We recognize that preparing this paperwork can be confusing. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the medical programs director, Ellison Weeks (

What type of clothing should I bring with me to the United States to shadow?

Men's Business Casual Attire:

  • Note: a tie is NOT necessary for business casual.
  • Shirt - A dress shirt with collar; a nice sweater or jacket over a shirt with a collar. (No t-shirts or sweatshirts)
  • Slacks - A pair of slacks/trousers: black, navy, charcoal, gray, khaki. (No jeans)
  • Shoes/Belt - Be sure to wear a belt and shoes that are in good condition. Athletic shoes and sandals are not acceptable.

Women's Business Casual Attire (skirt or pant):

  • Shirt - A dress shirt with a collar; a nice sweater or jacket over a shirt with a collar. (No t-shirts or sweatshirts)
  • Slacks - A pair of dress slacks/trousers or skirt: black, charcoal, gray, khaki. (No jeans)
  • Shoes/Belt - Be sure to wear a belt and shoes that are in good condition. Athletic shoes and sandals are not acceptable.

mens_business_casualwomens business casual

What is the difference between the Exploring Health Care (EHC) and the Medical Exchange and Discovery (MED) programs?


EHC (Exploring Health Care)

MED (Medical Exchange and Discovery)

Brief Description

EHC is an introductory cross-cultural medical exchange program between Japan and the U.S. aimed at providing participants with an understanding of how health care and medical education function in the U.S.

MED is a cross-cultural medical exchange program between Japan, Taiwan, mainland China and the U.S. aimed at providing participants with not just an understanding of how health care and medical education function in the U.S. but also in other Asian countries. In addition, there is a required final project


2 weeks during March

3 weeks during August


1 week at Stanford in a hotel and 1 week in San Francisco in a hotel

3 weeks in a Stanford dormitory


Approximately 35 medical students from Japan. Students from any year are welcome to apply.

Approximately 35 medical students from Japan, mainland China, and Taiwan. Students from any year are welcome to apply, but preference is given to students who are 3rd year or above.

Medical English Training

Prepatory sessions and post-visit discussions run by EHC staff designed to enhance understanding of program content

Topics Covered: medical vocabulary improvement

6 - 9 medical English lessons with faculty advisor from partner schools, 14 hours total

Topics Covered: analyzing research papers, case presentations, patient interview, medical vocabulary improvement

Shadowing Locations

Past locations have included free Clinics, Stanford Hospital, and UCSF Hospital

Participants will be given the opportunity to shadow physicians and gain a sense of what a physician's work is like in the US. 


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