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Japanese students enjoy annual visit to Anschutz Medical Campus

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Author Chris Casey | Publish Date September 23, 2013

Japanese students watch a Visible Human Project film during a tour of the Anschutz Medical Campus

By Chris Casey | University Communications

AURORA, Colo. -- "Oohs" and "aahs" filled the room as the Japanese physical therapy students donned 3D glasses and saw the human body as never before in the "Visible Human Project" anatomy laboratory at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

The group from Yamagata Prefectural University of Health Sciences attentively watched as Victor Spitzer, Ph.D., showed a film that illustrates human anatomy in stunning 3D detail.

The group -- 16 students and three faculty members -- was on the second day of a weeklong visit to the Anschutz Medical Campus, as well as select areas of the University of Colorado-Boulder campus and attractions around Denver. They viewed how students in the University of Colorado Physical Therapy Program enjoy a robust, integrated curriculum and extensive educational resources.

This marks the 14th year students and faculty have traveled from Yamagata as part of an international partnership. Members of our Physical Therapy faculty, including senior instructor Eric Sawyer, who led the visitors on several tours, have likewise toured and lectured at the state university in northern Japan.

"They get to go to labs with our students and get a sense of the different settings -- hospitals, laboratories and clinics -- in which physical therapy is practiced in the United States," Sawyer said.

One highlight of the week was a student-led experience. Last year, the visitors gave a lesson on why obesity isn't endemic in Japan, and our students presented on anterior cruciate ligament injury prevention.

The week also featured the annual Research Congress in which three faculty from Yamagata and three from our program each gave presentations on their respective research. The week wrapped up with our first-year PT students throwing a pot-luck party, including entertainment routines performed by both visiting and host students.

Last weekend, the Japanese visitors were hosted at the homes of our first-year Physical Therapy Program students. They also enjoyed a Colorado Rockies game.

"They always want to know when the Rockies are in town -- they're big baseball fans," Sawyer said.

The practice of physical therapy is somewhat different in Japan. For example, Japanese patients must go to a physician before being seen by a physical therapist. Here, where therapists go through inter-professional training to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, patients can go directly to a physical therapist without a referral.

"They get a sense of why our students have a rigorous curriculum," Sawyer said. "We teach our students how to screen all the different body systems to make sure we're treating the right thing. It's not always a musculoskeletal problem.

Besides visiting a host of labs and programs on the Anschutz Medical Campus, the Yamagata contingent toured the Gait Lab at Children's Hospital Colorado and Craig Hospital, a facility specializing in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation, in Englewood.

It's always a pleasure hosting the Yamagata visitors on their annual trip, Sawyer said. "They're so kind, gracious and respectful."

(Photo: Physical therapy students from Yamagata, Japan, watch the "Visible Human Project" film in Professor Victor Spitzer's anatomy lab during their tour of the Anschutz Medical Campus. Spitzer is pictured at far left.)

Contact: christopher.casey@ucdenver.edu