Suzanna Chatterjee, MD
The Tokyo subway doors opened, and two elderly women in traditional kimonos scurried on and took their seats next to me. As East met West and tradition met modern-day conveniences, I sat in awe of the amazing culture I had the unique opportunity to experience.
Entering my fourth year as an ob-gyn resident in Michigan, I was selected by District V to participate in the ACOG and Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (JSOG) exchange program. Six Japanese Junior Fellows attended the Annual Clinical Meeting in New Orleans, and six ACOG Junior Fellows attended the JSOG Annual Congress in Sapporo in turn.
After attending the JSOG Annual Congress, I took a few days to explore Tokyo before coming back to the US. Tokyo was bustling and full of culture. Sapporo, a northern popular skiing town, was more relaxed and charming. View photos from Dr. Chatterjee’s travels.
I arrived in Sapporo in early May, just weeks prior to graduating residency and taking the written board exam. I traveled with the Japanese delegation and a few of my American peers. Once in Japan, we each presented on research we had completed during residency or current topics of interest in global women’s health. I stood among peers from Japan, Korea, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Canada, and the US.
As I spoke about my research on pregnancy outcomes among women with a body mass index greater than 50, I could see and feel the shock that resonated in my audience. I was speaking about something Asia has very little experience in handling. Obesity has, fortunately, not become an epidemic there as it has in our country.
Although I had anticipated that my topic and findings would be surprising, I had not expected the outpouring of questions and fascination with my subject matter. I was excited to share my research results and even more excited to have the honor of receiving the International Session Award. In true Japanese fashion, my award was presented to me in a beautifully designed and intricate origami folder.
The conference allowed attendees to hear perspectives from a number of countries on topics such as preeclampsia, cervical cancer, contraception, and maternal morbidity and mortality. It was fascinating to compare and contrast the findings, obstacles, and proposed solutions each country faces. On a global level, these topics are not created equal, and each country or region of the world struggles with different complexities of the same diseases.
Hamid Rushwan, MB, BS, MD, chief executive of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), gave a lecture on reducing maternal mortality and achieving the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal 5, which focuses on improving global maternal health. This talk particularly captivated me. Ob-gyns, and physicians of all specialties, should be exposed to and aware of the issues women face globally.
Our Japanese counterparts were hospitable and shared local sights, food, and culture with us. We visited traditional Japanese hot springs and temples and were introduced to Japanese delicacies such as soup curry, ramen, Japanese barbeque, okonomiyaki (“Japanese pizza”), hairy crab, sushi, and even dancing shrimp. As the name would suggest, these shrimp arrived at our table alive and were to be eaten as such.
I will always remember my time in Japan. I experienced a new place and culture and also expanded my knowledge and awareness of women’s health. I was able to share my research with my peers and others who may not be aware of what impact obesity has on women’s health in the US. I am eternally grateful to both ACOG and JSOG for this enlightening adventure.