Japanese students learn more than health sciences from Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions
Accompanied by So Miyahara, the Japanese LLU students sing a Christian song in English during the Humanitec Rehabilitation College graduation reception earlier this year.
It was sundown in the land of the rising sun, but something else was coming up: graduation caps. For their American-style completion ceremony, students at Humanitec Rehabilitation College in Japan adopted the tradition of the mortarboard toss, laughing and repeating the trick while their friends and family snapped pictures in a courtyard at the school building in Yokkaichi City.
It was a gleeful moment for the Humanitec students. By taking classes from both Humanitec and Loma Linda professors—and spending the final quarter of their four-year program in residence at LLU—these occupational and physical therapy students were able to receive a bachelor’s degree in health science from the LLU School of Allied Health Professions. Their moment of triumph had come.
But besides the obvious—a college degree from a respected American health sciences institution—what is gained by the collaboration between LLU and Humanitec? Do the Japanese students learn more than American graduation customs such as tossing mortarboards?
In a word, yes. Through Loma Linda, Humanitec students are introduced to a new worldview and lifestyle. The exposure leaves deep impressions.
A simple song
Some of these impressions are as simple as the words of a praise song. Like “Lord I Lift Your Name on High,” which this year’s graduating fourth cohort sang as a surprise for the LLU faculty attending their completion ceremony.
They gathered on stage in a ballroom at Yokkaichi Miyako Hotel with student So Miyahara accompanying on guitar. The students sang tentatively, but the words of the song were dramatic coming as they did from a group of people who were not raised in a primarily Christian nation:
“You came from heaven to earth to show the way. From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay. From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky. Lord, I lift your name on high.”
The students chose this song because of its encouraging message, explains graduate Mutsumi Miyazaki, 27, who is now embarking on a career in psychiatric occupational therapy.
The performance may actually have been indicative of a burgeoning tradition for Humanitec students—last year’s graduating cohort also chose to sing Christian music learned at Loma Linda for the Loma Linda faculty who came to their graduation.
“My reaction last year was absolute surprise. I expected it this year,” says Craig Jackson, JD, MSW, dean, School of Allied Healt
All Humanitec students had their graduation on Friday, and a separate American-style completion ceremony followed on Saturday evening for Humanitec students in the LLU program. Here, students gather for a photo after the Japanese ceremony. LLU graduates Kyoko Kubo and Mayu Nishiyama are the two women wearing kimonos on the left.
h Professions. “I’m grateful that their experience with our spiritual environment made such an impact on them.”
“I can’t help being curious about God”
Ms. Miyazaki is a Seventh-day Adventist, so the spiritual environment she and her classmates encountered in Loma Linda felt familiar to her. But her fellow Humanitec students were in mostly new territory.
“I wish for my friends to get a good impression about church activities and spiritual approaches,” she says. Japanese students typically come from a religious environment where several faiths coexist in a secular society. Their background often includes exposure to Shinto and Buddhist traditions and rituals. The Christian spirituality they find at Loma Linda University and in area churches is new to many of them.
“My family is Buddhist,” says Mayu Sumita, an occupational therapy graduate. “[Through Loma Linda], I was able to learn about God. I was able to learn to express gratitude. I was very happy in going to church. I was able to learn a lot by going to church.”
So Miyahara studied Shintoism when he was a high school student. He says he was interested in learning about Christianity. He points out a few differences between the Shinto and Christian faiths that he noticed.
“Christians sing gospel [songs]. We don’t sing them,” he says. “We don’t go to the shrine weekly. We go to it when we have ceremonial events.”
About the influence the Loma Linda program has had on his life, Mr. Miyahara says, “I can’t help being curious about God.”
Etsuko Sakiyama also had her curiosity piqued.
“I’m not Christian, but I felt their attitude was wonderful because I saw a hope of God at Loma Linda,” Ms. Sakiyama says. “They had essential compassion for others. I was encouraged to have holiness and goodness in my heart, to help others.”
Upon returning to Japan from Loma Linda, Ms. Sakiyama read Ellen White’s classic book about Jesus, Steps to Christ.
“I was impressed by the book because she told us a holy message for our life,” she says.
The message of Christian love made a big impact on her heart and mind.
“A great change in my heart is that I want to grow in the love of God so that I grow in holiness, in goodness, by this love for one another. I learned to make my neighborhood a place of love, of peace, and joy. I’ll be able to be united wi
LLU graduate So Miyahara and LLU campus chaplain Terry Swenson, MPH, exchange greetings at the American reception.
th others, to find love for one another, as God loves each one of us. I felt this was difficult before I came to Loma Linda,” she says.
This message of love will be included into her professional life.
“I made a firm resolution to have essential compassion for patients,” Ms. Sakiyama says. “I learned praying for patients through a reading assignment in a class about Loma Linda University perspectives.”
God in education
So how do students such as Etsuko, So, and Mayu pick up these messages? They see it in both formal and informal ways. Throughout their work with LLU, students are exposed to Seventh-day Adventist Christian values and ideals.
While in Loma Linda, Humanitec students accept an invitation to attend services at the Loma Linda Japanese Church of Seventh-day Adventists and other area churches.
“We learned basic Christianity from our teachers before we went to LLU,” says Ms. Miyazaki, the Adventist student. “The students seem curious to see the Christian lifestyle. Some of them are interested in attending church, however, we do not have a good-size church nearby Humanitec.”
In the classroom, Humanitec students take about four religion courses, some while still in Japan and others on the Loma Linda campus.
For example, the same day that the fourth cohort had its Japanese ceremony, on March 10, another cohort was upstairs in a classroom taking an intensive weeklong course on the Gospel of John in the New Testament, taught by David Taylor, DMin, interim dean and associate dean, Faculty of Religion, LLU.
The students sat quietly in class, reading along in their Japanese Bibles as Dr. Taylor’s wife, Maxine Taylor, EdD, assistant professor, department of nutrition and dietetics, School of Allied Health Professions, read aloud in English scenes from the Garden of Gethsemane. A translator read the verses aloud in Japanese, as well.
The students listen, but it is difficult to see from their faces what they might be thinking.
“Their questions were similar to those of students I have taught at Loma Linda even though they were from a non-Christian nation—questions such as discussion about the miracles, feeding of the 5,000, the death and resurrection, and what it means to them,” says Dr. Taylor.
It’s not just the spiritual environment at LLU that impacts the students. They also notice the emphasis Loma Linda places on healthful living.
Mr. Miyahara made changes to his diet.
Mayu Nishiyama and Kyoko Kubo take a break for refreshments at the Loma Linda University reception.
dquo;I’m not vegetarian,” he says. “I ate meat more than vegetables before. Now, I eat vegetables more. I want to live more. I don’t have disease and become more healthy.”
Sought for our mission
The LLU/ Humanitec partnership began in 2000 at the request of Masayuki Ohashi, who is now chair of the Humanitec board. Mr. Ohashi read LLU’s mission and was impressed by the University’s work for the good of people and the community and not just for money. This inspired his confidence and trust that LLU would train his students honestly.
“Partnering with Humanitec, a non Seventh-day Adventist school that sought us out because of our mission, allows students to experience our values in an academic environment that upgrades their skills and helps them contribute to their profession when they return home,” says Dr. Jackson. “I am proud of our commitment to whole-person care and education.”
The first group of 17 students studied on the Loma Linda University campus in 2002. Since then, one cohort has come through LLU each fall quarter.
Professionally, the cooperation with Loma Linda University benefits Humanitec students studying physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Rehabilitation education and practices in Japan are modeled after the U.S. pattern, says LLU/Humanitec program director, Keiko Khoo, MS, MA, also chair of the speech-language pathology and audiology department in the School of Allied Health Professions.
“Japan seems to go through some of the same challenges that we experienced a decade earlier,” Ms. Khoo says. “So the exposure to U.S. education gives the students advanced knowledge and preparation.”
Loma Linda University offers Humanitec students professional courses that broaden and deepen their perspective and preparation for practice. LLU also offers more upper division general education courses to balance Humanitec students’ education.
Until recently, Humanitec Rehabilitation College only offered certificates in the health sciences. This year, the school received government authorization to offer the equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. But students will still be involved with LLU classes for several years to come.
“Most of all, they value what LLU has to offer, whether it is degrees or experiences,” says Ms. Khoo. Ms. Sumita enjoyed the chance to learn more about occupational therapy at Loma Linda University.
“American occupational therapy has fields that are more various than Japan,” she says.
Mr. Miyahara says he enjoyed the opportunity to be exposed to American medicine.
In addition to learning more about the American medical system, the students were also exposed to a new style of teaching.
“The way of teaching was different from Japanese teachers in their expressiveness, spiritual mind, and student care,” says Ms. Miyazaki.
“I think Japanese teachers do not express their own feeling to the students but focus on the subject mainly. They want to be a good teacher, but not to be a friend to us. On the other hand, Loma Linda teachers try to share not only knowledge but also their own experiences with us.”
Dr. Taylor says that he thinks the Humanitec students appreciate the care of their American teachers—and that this care helps them understand Christianity in a practical way.
“I would characterize them as those who want you, as the instructor, to care and take time to grapple with their concerns—which should behoove the instructor who is looking at Jesus’ ministry. His ministry didn’t take place in a vacuum, but instead where people live and move and have being. This helps the students to internalize the principles and to see that it is ‘doable’ in 2006,” he says.
By Heather Reifsnyder