Japanese veterinarians learn specialized skills in CSU’s residency program

Dr. Ken Fukushima, veterinarian and resident at CSU
Dr. Satoshi Tokunaga, veterinarian and resident at CSU

Dr. Ken Fukushima, a small-animal internal medicine resident, (left) and Dr. Satoshi Tokunaga, a small-animal surgery resident, are among the first to take part in the new veterinary specialist program. Photos: William A. Cotton/CSU Photography

Colorado State University has partnered with veterinary and academic leaders in Japan to create a veterinary specialist program. The program, established in 2011, supports five years of study in the United States and includes two years of graduate school and three years of a residency program.

The first graduate of the program, Dr. Masa Sato, is now a project associate professor at the University of Tokyo. When he started his education, there was no residency program in Japan that would allow him to become a board-certified specialist in small-animal internal medicine.

Veterinary specialists in Japan are few and far between, said Max Matsuura, director of international program development in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. And there are few opportunities for residencies.

“The only way to get residency training is to go to the U.S. or Europe,” he said. But it can be very difficult for people who are not U.S. citizens to land a residency position because it is very competitive.

Participants gain important credentials

Dr. Ken Fukushima, a small-animal internal medicine resident in his third year at CSU, said taking part in the program has been a fantastic opportunity.

“It is a great experience for me to learn a lot of basic and advanced internal medicine procedures from faculty, clinicians and colleagues,” he said.

Sato said  his CSU residency helped him fulfill a longtime dream to become a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, or a board-certified veterinarian.

“Through this program, I also met many wonderful veterinarians, nurses and students, and the connection with these people is my treasure,” he added.

Sato said he loves hiking, watching wildlife and enjoying a cold beer after a hike, so Fort Collins was the perfect place to live during his training.

Positive reviews from clients

In addition to credentials, the residents gain valuable skills in communicating with clients he serves at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

One of them was so impressed with her experience that she left a five-star review on Google: “I’ve had a great experience with Dr. Fukushima in Internal Medicine. My dog has a complicated case of Cushing’s Disease… We’ve been traveling here from Denver for the last 10 months for continuing care and my dog’s health has done a 180 since we first started,” wrote Theresa Simcic.

Fukushima said when he returns to Japan in summer 2023, he will be able to share what he has learned with young veterinarians. In addition, he said that events like the Tour de Fat, sponsored by New Belgium Brewing, and holidays like Halloween have been great cultural experiences for his family.

“These are very good opportunities to learn about American culture,” he said.

Dr. Satoshi Tokunaga is also currently enrolled in the program at CSU as a small-animal surgery resident. He returns to Japan in summer 2020.