Greetings and Overview of the Educational Program for Dementia Experts in Hokuriku (NINPRO)

Welcome to NINPRO!

Project leader: Kenjiro Ono
[Department of Neurology and Neurobiology of Aging, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medical Sciences]

I became the second project leader after taking over the project from the former leader, Professor Emeritus Masahito Yamada, in October 2021.

The Educational Program for Dementia Experts in Hokuriku (NINPRO) commenced as the “Problem-Solving Oriented Training Program for Advanced Medical Personnel,” a new project of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, in 2014. Although the grant-funded project ended in 2018, four universities in Hokuriku—Kanazawa University, Toyama University, Fukui University, and Kanazawa Medical University—signed a new collaborative project agreement, using each university’s funds to continue the program.

Japan has some problems such as the rapid increase in dementia patients in the super-aging society and a shortage of dementia specialists. NINPRO was created to develop genuine professional physicians who could use their advanced medical abilities to treat patients with dementia. Our society needs physicians with the following capabilities: advanced medical knowledge and practical skills for treating patients with dementia, the ability to provide wide-ranging assistance for patients with dementia and their families with multidisciplinary collaborative skills in communities, and research creativity regarding prospective methods for preventing dementia and providing medical care for dementia patients.

The aforementioned universities have advanced educational and technological capabilities and are developing and implementing this educational program. These four medical universities in the Hokuriku region operate as a central network and conduct the project in cooperation with community medical institutions, research institutions, and local municipalities, among others.

The purpose of this project is to develop human resources that can provide professional medical care based on the latest scientific evidence and achieve healthy longevity in society, thus addressing the problem of dementia in our country.

The following four educational courses are offered through NINPRO: (1) the regular course, (2) the intensive course, (3) the special course, and (4) the super course. The regular course is the main course aimed at training graduate students (physicians) to become leaders in dementia medical teams; they have the highest level of knowledge and skills for medical practices related to dementia. The intensive training course encourages physicians to acquire the abilities needed to treat dementia patients in community-based hospitals. The special course provides training for specialist doctors in the neuropathological basis of dementia and other intractable neurological diseases, as well as instruction in epidemiology, early detection, prevention, and the care of dementia patients in the community. The super course provides training for “super-professional” physicians specializing in dementia who have demonstrated outstanding research abilities at the international level and whose experience includes clinical practice with dementia patients. Continuous education is also provided to both undergraduate and graduate students.

NINPRO began as a plan suited to the development of medical human resources for the rapidly increasing number of patients with dementia, leading nations worldwide as a model project for the development of dementia specialists. In addition to physicians, NINPRO is available for multiple occupations, such as nursing, nursing care, rehabilitation, and health and welfare. We aim to develop professionals in multiple fields related to dementia and achieve excellence in dementia medical care through advanced multidisciplinary collaboration.

As of October 1, 2021, the number of physicians and students enrolled in each course were as follows: 17 in the main course, 56 in the intensive course, 5 in the special course, and 2 in the super course. To date, 3 students have completed the main course and 19 have completed the intensive course.

The dementia e-learning course for medical staffs was offered initially in 2016 for all professions involved in dementia care (except for physicians) throughout the country. As of October 1, 2021, 2,281 individuals had taken this course.

In November 2017, we published the first edition of the clinical practice handbook for dementia, which corresponds to the e-learning texts. It was written mainly by instructors responsible for e-learning lectures. Subsequently, we revised the text contents in accordance with advances and new findings in medical care for dementia. The second edition of the handbook was published in April 2021 to include multiple articles regarding dysphagia and rehabilitation for swallowing for patients with dementia.

The four universities hold case conferences (called “dementia conferences”) on a rotating basis monthly. Furthermore, FD lectures are held continuously by representative dementia experts in Japan. Although these conferences and lectures were previously held using a TV conferencing system, a Web conference system has been used since 2017. Thus, the participants from all over the country have been able to access these conferences. We are making efforts to utilize NINPRO more effectively nationwide (beyond Hokuriku).

We would be grateful for your guidance and continued cooperation.