Meet Alumni Dr. Tesshu Kusaba, MClSc 2019

Graduate Name: Dr. Tesshu Kusaba        

Year of completion: 2019   

Supervisor(s): Dr. Moira Stewart     

Thesis Title: Japanese patients’ preference for Patient-centered medicine and its association with the satisfaction of patients with their family physicians

Thesis link to UWO repository:


Tell me a little about you.

I am Tesshu Kusaba, a family doctor working in Hokkaido, Japan. I am the CEO of the Hokkaido Centre for Family Medicine (HCFM) and the President of Japan Primary Care Association (JPCA). I am also a husband and a father of 3 children.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Fukuoka, a big city with 1.2 million people in Japan.  I was raised there until I was 18.  As a child, I enjoyed visiting my grandfather’s house in the countryside and playing in the vast fields with my cousins.

What degree(s) do you have, and from what universities?

I have Medical Degree from Kyoto University, School of Medicine in Japan. Kyoto is the most historical city in Japan, and I really enjoyed academic work and Japanese traditional culture.

Where do you practice medicine and in what scope? What are your research interests?

I have been working as a family doctor at Motowanishi Family Clinic in Muroran City of Hokkaido, since 2003. The clinic provides medical care through a three-member group system. The Outpatient Department treats about 40 patients with various health problems from a wide range of age groups daily. The Home-visit Department provides medical care for approximately 150 elderly people and those with disabilities monthly. As a member of the community medical association, I have been participating in preventive medical activities to promote community residents’ health and other activities to establish a community-based integrated care system.

My research theme is patient-centered medicine and its effect on patients’ physical, mental and subjective health.

What special interests or hobbies do you have?

Watching movies and seeing kabuki shows are recently my favorite hobbies. I also enjoy running on a treadmill at the gym in my spare time. I began to take Japanese tea ceremony lessons more than 10 years ago, and was certified as a tea ceremony master. Regrettably, I have been so busy that I have not been able even to touch a tea whisk these years.

Why did you choose to pursue a MCISc in the Department of Family Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?

When I became a junior faculty of HCFM, there were few opportunities to learn about educational methods, the management of organization and research skills used in family medicine. I decided to learn these concepts through the MClSc program in Family Medicine. I selected the Department of Family Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Western University because Dr. Kassai, my mentor studied with Dr McWhinney 40 years ago and he was really impressed with Dr. Ian McWhinney’s Theoretical Foundations of Family Medicine. I also read the Textbook of Family Medicine written by Dr. Ian McWhinney and decided I wanted to learn more about family medicine at Western University.

Is there an experience of your time in the program that stands out for you, an “ah hah” moment?

To prepare for my thesis, I had video conference meetings with my supervisor, Dr. Moira Stewart monthly. I was always encouraged and given warm words from her. It was really humanistic, and I felt really happy to be in such a position in my career. I will never forget this excellent time.

How do the writings and the person of Dr. Ian McWhinney influence your work in your career overall?

My career as a family doctor was derived from learning in HCFM under Dr. Kassai who obtained his roots in Canada in his learnings through Dr. Ian McWhinney. As a result, my professional roots are also connected with Dr. Ian McWhinney. His book titled Textbook of Family Medicine, is my bible for my practice and education. I translated this book into a Japanese version with Dr. Kassai. This was a real honor for me.

What has been your greatest experience to date in your teaching / research career?

I published a research article with a title of “Influence of family dynamics on burden among family caregivers in aging Japan” in 2016 on Family Practice journal. I also presented this research at the WONCA World conference (Prague 2013). These experiences were my first steps toward working as an academic family doctor.

What are your thoughts about the Patient-Centered Clinical method as it relates to teaching, research and clinical practice?

In my opinion, this method is the most important framework for a clinical practice of family medicine.   Since graduation from my residency program I have taught the Patient-Centered Clinical Method to my trainees.  It is effective and useful in daily practice, and of course very realistic during busy times. My research is also about the Patient-Centered Clinical Method and its effect on people’s health.

What MClSc / PhD learning have you incorporated into your family medicine practice as a result of the program?

Everything. The learnings in the MClSc program really changed my way of practice, education and academic work. Now I am unconscious about this learning as it has been integrated into my inner sense.

Tell us about your experience in developing your research idea for your thesis.

The Patient-Centered Clinical Method is an effective and acceptable method for my practice. It was difficult for me to find research on the outcome of PCCM carried out in Japan. I am hopeful that my thesis will contribute to this understudied research in Japan.

Please describe the role of your supervisor in completing your thesis work.

Dr. Moira Stewart’s role as my supervisor was essential for me. She supported me in making my research question clear and understandable and provided many tips on establishing a research plan. For the thesis, she provided me the framework of writing and she edited my manuscript many times. In preparation for the oral thesis defense she gave me advice on how to present in front of the examiners. Her smile always gave me the courage and confidence to overcome these tasks. I was really happy to have such a great supervisor.

Has your teaching / research changed as a result of the MClSc program?

I have not started further research work since completing the MClSc program.  I want to continue to focus my research on the same topic as my thesis.

My teaching style has completely changed after what I have learned in the MClSc program. The principles of my teaching are constructivism and reflective practitioner, which are the most important themes I learned from Dr. Wayne Weston in the Teaching & Learning in Family Medicine course.

What would you consider the single most important benefit of the MClSc program?

The most important impact of the learnings in the MClSc program was the construction of Theoretical Foundations of Family Medicine.  Not only in clinical practice, but also in education and academic work. The style of clinical practice of family medicine is changed by health policy, natural condition, culture and history so every country has a unique style of family medicine, but I believe the basic theory is applicable in every country. As a leader in the field of family medicine, it is very important to know the difference of universal principles and uniqueness.

Anything further you would like to add or share?

I was happy to learn in this program as a family physician. I hope many family physicians around the world will learn the family medicine core principles through the MClSc/PhD program(s) in the Department of Family Medicine at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.