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Q: What kind of talent do you wish to cultivate through this collaborative effort?
A: Our aim in this endeavor is to cultivate opinion leaders with international sensibilities who are capable of conducting research in the field of disease prevention science with a view toward the end goal—giving back to society.
Q: Why is such talent needed?
A: Japan today is entering a stage where it is becoming the world’s first extremely high-age society, but sciences related to preventing diseases have only just emerged. So, educating individuals who can provide guidance for disease prevention is essential for Japan. Also, the rapid advancements being made in research in the life sciences, which includes disease prevention, present an opportunity to create new businesses, which is a top priority from the point of view of Japan’s growth strategy.
Q: How did these four universities come to work together?
A: The four universities are physically located close to one another, and they possess complementary characteristics in the field of life sciences. For these reasons, they began in 2009 by setting the goal of establishing a global center for the life sciences.
Q: The consortium has a five-year plan. What programs have been set up?
A: Two years will be required to prepare the educational content for the disease prevention science course of study. In 2014, this course of study will be set up as a doctoral program at Tokyo Medical and Dental University and Ochanomizu University, with educational and research instruction being provided through collaboration among the four universities. Also, existing programs (improving the level of education in the doctoral program, providing student support and collaborating with the community) will be further developed with the establishment of this course of study.
Q: What are some of the new things that the consortium makes possible?
A: Stakeholders can actively participate. By incorporating societal needs into the doctoral program it becomes possible to train individuals who will be immediately effective in the real world. Also, by systematically building a course of study in disease prevention science, we can make a difference in solving some of the biggest problems being faced by Japan today. By bringing to bear the objective evaluations of an external advisory body on this series of efforts, we can build an educational system in collaboration with the community. In addition, by sharing the resources of the four universities we can provide a top-level study opportunity for students. The plan is to accept six to 10 students for this course of study each year.
Q: Which ongoing activities of the different universities do you plan to improve through this endeavor?
A: We are working to build a doctoral program based on the needs of society, with our stakeholders playing a key role. Also, we are taking the first steps in sharing existing syllabi to create a system that would not be possible within a single university. The system will include instruction by professors from multiple universities, education based on laboratory rotation, more study and research opportunities through the sharing of university facilities, and the sharing of international-oriented programs. Furthermore, we will continue to develop the current Master’s programs and by establishing a doctoral program offer new opportunities to those with Master’s degrees. Each year we aim to turn out six to 10 well-trained individuals with expertise that can be applied immediately in the real world.
Q: How will the results of the collaboration appear in the real world? Are there specific indicators?
A: Through this program, students and foreign exchange students will have the opportunity to get the finest education available in Japan, which will draw out their maximum potential. We are carrying out this project to the best of our ability to ensure that students who complete the course of study will be able to work in a wide range of fields, from medical institutions to public agencies, or in the personalized medicine industry or disease prevention industry.