Tomonori Kiyoyama, 34, was once a promising, elite physician. A graduate of the prestigious University of Tokyo's medical school, he also studied in the United States. But he turned to politics five years ago and is now using that platform to try to attract more doctors to his hometown in Miyazaki.

What motivated the second-term Miyazaki Prefectural Assembly member was an online article he read in 2009, while in New York studying infectious diseases, about a shortage of doctors in less-populated areas in the prefecture.

Recognizing that deliberations on the issue in the prefectural assembly lacked a key perspective — how to make intern programs in the prefecture attractive to young doctors — he immediately decided to come home.