In late October, a group of physicians from our sister hospital, Takaoka City Hospital, in Takaoka, Japan, spent the week at Parkview Regional Medical Center, as a part of Fort Wayne Sister Cities International.
Fort Wayne and Takaoka have maintained their sister city status for 40 years. The relationship has created lifelong friendships, cultural understanding and mutual respect between the two communities. There’s a long history of high schools in each city facilitating exchange experiences for students, and five years ago, the Takaoka delegation began the search for a new relationship: sister hospitals who could provide something similar for physicians. The expected benefits of the exchange were tremendous. Two hospitals with different cultures learning from each other and growing together could have substantial implications for the way care is delivered to patients. That’s why, when the chair of the Takaoka Committee, Mr. Toyoharu Tamura (known as “Mr. T”), was able to connect with Parkview leadership, the answer was a fast “yes”.
The two cities try to host physicians annually, taking turns visiting each other’s hospitals. During their time together, they’re able to engage with leadership and other physicians, tour facilities and spend time in the city. The most recent trip from Takaoka physicians marks their third visit, and each year, the relationship deepens.
“The first year, we were focused on general information exchange. You know, differences in insurance or education,” Mr. T said. “After that, we’ve been focusing on more advanced information exchange, such as surgery, cancer and palliative care.” Usually, doctors spend a few days touring the hospital and exchanging general information, like overviews of each country’s medical systems, or overviews of specific programs. The rest of the week is spent shadowing doctors and learning the intricacies of various specialties.
The relationship has already proved extremely beneficial. Takaoka City Hospital was able to implement many things they learned from the Cancer Center after their previous visit, and Parkview has garnered knowledge from Takaoka’s advanced endoscopy programs.
Sue Ehinger, Chief Experience Officer, Parkview Health, was a part of the group from Fort Wayne that visited Takaoka City Hospital a few years ago. She stressed that the benefits of the relationship didn’t end with an exchange of clinical information. She was most struck by the kindness and respect that they showed everyone who walked through their doors. “They had an incredibly authentic relationship with their patients,” she said. “Their care and compassion was so genuine. We took a tour with the president of the hospital and he sat down and told a patient that he looked great. He asked lots of questions. He visited with the nurses at the nurses’ station and made them all laugh. He cared about everyone.”
Beyond forming professional connections, friendships have developed over the years. “I’ve never felt so cared about or cared for,” Sue said. “And when they got into town we were all embracing after not seeing each other for a year, even though we don’t speak the same language.” The relationships built between our sister hospitals have the strength to last a lifetime. After all, we are family.