Regis DPT Hosts Teikyo Heisei University

Written by: Lauren Smith; Class of ‘25 Editor-in-Chief

This spring, the Regis DPT program hosted a group of 36 Japanese students visiting from Teikyo Heisei University. The students were a mix of athletic training, physiotherapy, judo therapy and accupuncture specialties, all of which are undergraduate programs in Japan. Accompanied by several faculty members, the students made the 18 hour journey from Tokyo to Denver in late February with goals to enhance their global awareness of the field and experience the cultural differences that exist in both practice and profession.

In association with Colorado House International, Regis has been hosting students from Teikyo University Group since 2010, facilitated by former DPT Director Dr. Marcia Smith. The ultimate goal of the program was to share healthcare expertise on a global scale in order to build cultural intelligence and foster professional relationships on an international platform. It is Dr. Smith’s belief that “broadening our perspectives through teaching and learning is an important aspect of our growth.” In 2015, Dr. Smith traveled to Tokyo to tour the campuses and meet with Dr. Hiroko Okinaga, the president of Teikyo Heisei University (one of three Teikyo Group universities offering physical therapy programs). Following this visit, a Memorandum of Understanding was drafted between our two universities, signed by Teikyo administrators and Regis DPT Dean Dr. Mark Reinking in 2018. This solidified a relationship between our physical therapy programs that continues to be honored today.

Teikyo students at the Olympic Training Center

During their eight day stay in Denver this past spring, The Japanese students were kept busy experiencing the culture of our city and country. They toured various PT settings in the area including Craig Hospital, Denver Health, CU Sports facilities and the outpatient clinic of Regis alum Dr. Ryan Valenciano (class of 2021). Dr. Valenciano is of Japanese heritage, fluent in the language, and has been assisting with the visits since 2019. The students also visited the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, toured the sights of the front range, and attended both a Denver Nuggets game and Colorado Rapids game, all before joining us on campus.

Teikyo students and staff together with Regis faculty and student translators

The visiting students finished their trip by spending two days on campus with our DPT program, during which time we had the opportunity to learn from each other in various capacities. In addition to Dr. Valenciano, the visit was facilitated by Regis Fellow Dr. Masato Fukushima, and 1st year DPT student Sambi Mori, both of whom played an instrumental role in this exchange of knowledge and experience, serving as translators and guides for the Japanese guests. Born in Japan, Sambi moved to the States at 2 years old, but she remains closely connected to Japanese culture through her family ties. She used her fluent Japanese to speak to our visitors on the Regis DPT program, course schedule, and clinical practice in the United States, offering insight into the American interpretation of physiotherapy education. In return, our DPT students received a presentation from Teikyo Heisei professor and physiotherapist Dr. Shuhei IIda on education at their university, his robotics research, and culture in Japan as it pertains to physiotherapy. Following this presentation, Regis and Teikyo students shared a lunch of sushi and pizza while we got to know each other (utilizing translator apps as needed).

1st year DPT student measuring wrist range of motion with Teikyo student in lab

While they were on campus, Regis faculty made an effort to expose the Teikyo students to a variety of practices and environments that they would likely not see in Japan. Faculty member Dr. Cameron MacDonald recruited one of his orthopedic fellowship students to assist in demonstrating manual therapy techniques, a form of treatment not utilized by physiotherapists in Japan. The visitors also got to join 1st year DPT students in their PT Exam Lab, where students paired up with their Japanese counterparts to practice range of motion measurements, joint play and mobilization of the wrist and hand. Perhaps the most jarring item on the itinerary was their tour of the Anatomy lab, where Teikyo students got to see dissected cadavers, and even participate in some light dissection of the gluteal region. For most of them, this was their first time holding a scalpel— in Sambi’s words, “their eyes were very big.” When discussing this experience with the students, they seemed to very much appreciate the anatomical perspective that dissection provided.

Teikyo students eating lunch with 1st year DPT students

The visit was ultimately eye-opening and educational for both Regis and Teikyo students. The Teikyo students expressed a fascination with our style of education and physical therapy practice. Given that physiotherapy is only an undergraduate degree in Japan, their practice is much more limited, and these visiting students were inspired by the depth and extent of our education here at Regis. In return, it was a genuine pleasure for us to host these students and learn about techniques and practices that differed from those standardized in our country. Discussing her interactions with our visitors, Sambi described the students as “outgoing and energetic”, and she enjoyed the opportunity to connect with them through her cultural background. Both 1st and 2nd year students expressed great appreciation for the perspective offered by the Teikyo students, and our global perception of physical therapy has certainly been enhanced through this experience.

Dr. Shuhei IIda chatting with Regis DPT faculty Dr. Kristen Jagger

Dr. Marcia Smith has since stepped down from her position as director, but she remains on staff as an affiliate faculty savant, and has been thrilled to watch this international relationship develop over the past decade. She describes especially notable growth in the level of engagement demonstrated by the Teikyo students. In previous years, Japanese students have approached the visit as they would learning in their own culture, which consists primarily of note-taking and limited interaction. This year, students were prepared for the active learning style implemented in our program, and they brought energy and questions that enthused staff and students alike. In the coming years, Dr. Smith hopes to witness even further growth, with the intention of sending Regis students to Teikyo in the near future. In her words, “the exposure would provide a global view of physical therapy, allowing students to develop an appreciation for the importance of an international perspective in health.” In the mean time, our program will prepare to host more students from Teikyo University’s Fukuoka campus in the fall.

Regis DPT looks forward to further fostering this professional relationship overseas, and witnessing how our two universities continue to learn and grow alongside each other.

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