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Fifty-three of the 90 students who graduated from Fukushima Medical University in March are working as interns at hospitals in the prefecture, the most in the past 10 years.

The prefecture credits an increase in the medical department’s quota for admissions, as well as the eagerness of new graduates who experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster to contribute to the region.

The trend has raised hopes in the prefecture, where doctor shortages are a major problem, that the quality of local medical care will improve.

As the graph shows, the number of Fukushima Medical University graduates who did internships at local hospitals dropped sharply to 26 in fiscal 2011, soon after the earthquake. But it recovered to 48 in fiscal 2012 and to 53 the following year.

The percentage of graduates working as interns at local hospitals compared with all interns who graduated from the university in the past two years spiked after sinking to 35.1 percent in fiscal 2011, and has stayed higher than before the quake.

The medical department’s student quota has been rising since fiscal 2008, when a national policy aimed at curbing the number of doctors changed. Kept at 80 until fiscal 2007, the quota has risen every year since and reached 130 in fiscal 2013.

To increase the number of doctors, Fukushima Prefecture and Fukushima Medical University set up a fund to financially support medical students who agree to work in the prefecture for nine years after graduation.

The first students who were financed by the fund graduated in fiscal 2013. They were subsequently hired by hospitals in the area as interns.

But the prefecture lost about 200 doctors after the quake due to evacuation and other reasons, and the number stood at 3,506 as of the end of 2012.

The low ratio of 178.7 doctors per 100,000 people places Fukushima 44th on the list of all 47 prefectures. The prefecture needs 938 more doctors to reach the national average of 226.5.

It remains to be seen how many doctors will stay in Fukushima after the internships, which last about five years.

This section, appearing every third Monday, focuses on topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Aug. 24.

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