Medical Programs FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions Topics


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 the Stanford University campus 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.

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

Exploring Health Care (EHC) Medical Exchange and Discovery (MED)

Brief
Description
EHC is a cross-cultural medical exchange program between Japan and the US 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.

Time 2 weeks during March 3 weeks during August

Location 1 week in Palo Alto in a hotel and 1 week in San Francisco in a hotel 3 weeks in a Stanford University dormitory

Participants Approximately 35 medical students from Japan. Students from any year are welcome to apply. Approximately 40 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
Preparatory 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 (ADVANCED
TRACK ONLY)
Past locations have included free Clinics, Stanford Hospital, and UCSF Hospital.

Advanced track participants will be given the opportunity to shadow physicians and gain a sense of what a physician’s work is like in the US.


Application Process

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.


Traveling and Studying in the US

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.

What type of clothing should I bring with me to the United States to join the more formal program activities (e.g., medical lectures, workshops, visits to health care facilities)?

Men’s Business Casual Attire:Medical Programs Men's 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 pants):Medical Programs Women's Attire

  • 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.

 

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 well-being 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 System 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 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 Shadowing (for advanced track participants)

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 necessary in order to shadow in the US?

Yes, in order to shadow at U.S. medical facilities, all participants must be vaccinated against: varicella, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, diphtheria, 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. If you would like to learn more about the required immunizations feel free to reference our immunization guide. The English version can be found here [insert hyperlink], and we also have a Japanese version which you can find by clicking here [insert hyperlink]. Because what American hospitals require may be different from what you are familiar with please be sure to read the guide thoroughly. We also recognize that preparing this paperwork can be confusing. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the medical programs director, Ellison Weeks (ellison@viaprograms.org).


Questions about EHC

Who can participate in EHC?

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

What does the program fee cover?

The program fee covers:accommodation, 1/2 meals (breakfast daily, 4 lunches, 4 dinners), most scheduled activities, transportation, VIA staff services.

Where will I stay during the program?

During the program you will stay at the Good Hotel in San Francisco and at the Creekside Inn in Palo Alto. 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 EHC staff team.


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.

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.