Simon Downes



Career Bio:

I was born in Royal Leamington Spa in 1966, and I have family in England. While I complete my medical education, I am working as a clinical psychologist and specialist in bilingual education. I feel fortunate that my medical school allows me to study for the US licencing exams while training in Tokyo hospitals. Prior to coming to Japan in 1992, I was working for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco as as an Emergency Room Technician and Hospice / Medical Surgery CNA while enrolled at SFSU as a chemistry major (pre-med). My present area of interest in neurosurgery.

I am very involved in medical education, starting with my position as a student innovator in medical education at, and as an advisory board member at, where I have participated in online, non-scripted interviews on Google hangouts with hundreds of physicians over many medical specialties. However, the great majority have focused on neurology and neurosurgery. Some of these interviews can be seen on It is my dream to be the World’s Oldest Neurosurgical Resident!

What inspired you to study medicine?

When I was in law school in San Diego, I took a part-time job as an OR Transporter/Recovery room nursing assistant. My first CPR experience was so moving that within a month of that experience, I had quit law school, and moved to San Francisco to live with my UCSF orthopaedic resident brother.

Tell us about some of your greatest professional achievements to date.

I moved to Japan in 1992, and learned to read and write Japanese. After completing a PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Tsukuba, publishing in both Japan and England, I ran a kindergarten for seven years while training in a post-doc program centred on children with developmental and social disorders. I translated 10,000 phrases for raising children from Japanese into English, and published a book about it. My goal is to become the world's oldest neurosurgery resident (it’s an achievement to say this, as I am now 50). 

Who are your personal and professional role models?

I want to be more like my 16-year-old son - he’s the best person I know. For medicine, Albert Schweitzer and Henry Marsh. 

What is your opinion on Jeremy Hunt and the NHS?

Although I was born in England, and lived in Surrey until I was 13, I do not feel qualified to speak about Jeremy Hunt, except to say that from my position, he looks like he has taken on an incredibly difficult job. After living in the US for 14 years, and Japan for 24 years, England’s healthcare system seems much more attractive, despite its challenges. I certainly plan on qualifying in England, in addition to Japan and the US.

What, in your opinion, is the greatest concern for Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) in this day and age?

We are strangled in our efforts to communicate with each other and be advocates for patients. Due to ever-strengthening laws supporting patient privacy, medical malpractice, and greedy insurance companies, the profession is much less attractive. With the new advances in technology, I am hoping that we achieve interoperability in medicine, both domestically and internationally. 

Do you ever regret becoming a HCP? Would you consider doing anything else?

No. I have worked in medicine on and off since I was 19, and had jobs ranging from mopping floors to direct patient care. No other profession has been as satisfying or as stimulating. I can’t imagine doing anything else with the rest of my life.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

I want to succeed. I don’t like to sleep because it takes away from the fun I’m having getting where I am going. To help make ends meet for medical school, I teach English at university, and answer patients questions on a telehealth app called Curely. I think of patients and students in the same way - they need my help.

What do you think about MedShr? Is it useful for HCPs? If so, how?

As mentioned above, I feel we are restricted in how we share information about patients and communicate with peers. I like the freedom of MedShr in that once you have met the minimum privacy standard, we can communicate with colleagues from all over the world. Also, I’m looking forward to watching MedShr grow, as I don’t think it has reached its full potential. I think in the next few years, MedShr will be incorporating the latest mobile technology into its communication platform at the same time HCPs will be using new mobile tech to care for patients. Good communication among HCPs will drastically improve the quality of the world's health needs.

What is your favourite case on MedShr?

“A fall from grace part 2” The case reminds me of many similar cases I see on my present rotation in diagnostic radiology at Mita Hospital.

Do you read any journals / healthcare sites regularly?

I am an advisory board member at and communicate with HCPs and researchers almost daily. We catch up on the latest advances in medicine around the world through recorded Google Hangouts, and visit as many sites as possible to curate the newest information for our readers. I subscribe to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Who do you follow on Twitter / Facebook?

On Twitter, I follow neurosurgeons and Ricky Gervais. On Facebook, I attend live events where Ricky Gervais talks with his cat.

Do you believe technology has a place in medicine?

I don’t want to depend on it, but love every new innovation that comes out. 

Tell us something unexpected about yourself.

I was a competition surfer in California throughout junior and senior high school. 

If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Witty, Inquisitive & Romantic.

If you could give one piece of advice to young people thinking about studying medicine, what would it be?

Find out everything you can about medicine. Shadow a doctor, ask questions. Be a great communicator. 

Do you have any recommended reading for medical students in neurosurgery?

Presently, I am reading ‘How Doctors Think’ by Jerome Groopman, MD, but my favourite references would not be books. They would be 'The English Surgeon' about neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, and the PBS NOVA series, 'Doctor’s Diaries’. 

Thanks Simon! 


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