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News & Events

Kellogg expert makes Asia trip in new study of international healthcare

Fulbright Scholar Joel Shalowitz engages Japanese leaders during month-long visit to assess nation’s medical model

By Adrienne Murrill

8/20/2007 - Recently Kellogg School of Management Professor Joel Shalowitz earned honors as a Fulbright Senior Specialist and visiting professor in Japan.

The director of the Health Industry Management Program at Kellogg spent nearly a month sharing his knowledge of the American healthcare system with the Japanese while gaining insights into Japan’s healthcare structure.

A main purpose of the trip was to give advice for a new health administration program that Tokyo’s Keio University will be starting. Shalowitz worked with Keio University’s Professor Naoki Ikegami, who was the Malcolm T. MacEachern Memorial Lecturer at Kellogg this spring.

Ikegami asked Shalowitz to lecture to Keio medical students on such topics as cost accounting and healthcare quality. Shalowitz also spoke to the school’s healthcare administration students, primarily on geriatric care. “I discussed non-patient care for the medical students and patient care issues for the administration students,” said the professor of health industry management, adding that in writing a case for class discussion he drew on his many years of clinical practice and caring for older patients.

Outside of his work with Keio University, Shalowitz had the opportunity to meet with several of the country’s healthcare leaders, including Kiyoshi Kurokawa, M.D., science adviser to Japan’s prime minister. They discussed proposed initiatives to make Japan more globally competitive, particularly in the pharmaceutical arena. The Japanese also are considering changing medical training by making medical school into a separate graduate program, similar to the format found in the United States. Medical school, as it stands now in Japan, is a seven-year program that students begin immediately after high school.

“In the U.S., if students have studied for two or three years in a pre-med program, they can graduate with a major and attend a PhD program or go to law school,” Shalowitz said. “In Japan, though, you have to go back to square one and start all over again.” This change would mirror the recent decision to create a separate program for other professional schools in Japan, such as law school.

Shalowitz also visited Baxter’s Tokyo headquarters, where he was exposed to the company’s operations, product design process and regulation. “This really helped me get a handle on how drugs and devices are brought to market in Japan.” He then met with key officials at the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, where he learned about the country’s drug approval and pricing processes.

The Kellogg professor also gave guest lectures at Osaka and Kyoto Universities. Osaka, which is Japan’s largest public university, plans to start a health administration program, so Shalowitz lectured to faculty and students from the medical school and economics department on hospital administration programs. In Kyoto, he addressed the pros and cons of a “pay for performance” model in medical care with graduate students and faculty from the school’s economics department.

Overall, Shalowitz said the trip was an insightful one that built upon his experience as a Fulbright Scholar in Canada at York University in Toronto during the 2003-2004 academic year.

“I learned lessons in Japan similar to what I learned while I was in Canada,” he said. “That is, each country establishes its healthcare system in a context within its culture. Other countries can adapt little pieces or get an understanding of how things are done elsewhere, but unless you understand the context and the culture, you can’t transplant the whole system into another country.”

The Japan trip was also a good opportunity to expand the Kellogg School’s reputation for health industry management, he noted.

Shalowitz, who is also a professor of medicine and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, joined Kellogg in 1987. He manages a primary care group with offices at five locations in the Chicago suburbs and is a consultant to healthcare systems, governments, pharmaceutical and medical device companies and associations.