OPINION: Conflict of interest (COI) policies as social policy

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I am Natsuya Sakata, a third-year student at Akita University's School of Medicine. I have just started my research and study visit at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy and Society (CASPS), at the University of Bath, which is planned for the period between from 27th February and 2nd April, 2024. This visit promises to be a significant milestone in my educational journey, offering a unique blend of cultural and academic enrichment.

My current academic interests, guided by Professor Akihiko Ozaki at the Medical Governance Research Institute (Tokyo, Japan), focuses on evaluating the Conflict of Interest (COI) policies in Japanese medical schools. The impetus behind this research is to assess and fortify the integrity of these policies, ensuring they serve their intended purpose of protecting patient interests against the undue influence of pharmaceutical companies' financial incentives.

The necessity of this research stems from my deep concern for the potential adverse effects on patient care resulting from the intricate financial relationships between medical professionals and pharmaceutical entities. Such concerns are amplified by the increasing frequency of these interactions during one's medical education. As such, I advocate for the incorporation of comprehensive educational modules that instruct medical students on how to ethically manage and establish professional relationships with these companies, a component currently lacking in Japan's medical curriculum.

Recognizing that pharmaceutical companies operate on a global scale, I believe that an international comparative approach is pivotal in addressing COI issues within Japan's medical landscape. To enrich my understanding, I plan to engage in collaborative research with Dr Piotr Ozieranski, who is the Transparency Lead at CASPS. Our joint effort will explore the dynamics and regulatory frameworks of COI in Japan and Western medical systems. I am confident that the insights gained from this comparative study will equip me with the knowledge to contribute significantly to the discourse on COI in medical education upon my return to Japan.

During my stay I will also take a few units for social science students at the Department of Social and Policy Sciences here at Bath. I look forward to this experience.

I am wholeheartedly committed to this endeavor and eagerly anticipate the collaborative opportunities at the University of Bath, which I trust will be instrumental in shaping my professional ethos and research trajectory. I look forward to meeting staff and students alike.

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