As internationalization and globalization have become the common trend in every field in our society, such as politics, economy, and culture, many medical societies have started “internationalizing” actively: hosting or co-hosting international conferences, international collaboration research projects, exchange of medical researchers, medical education and enlightenment actions in developing countries, and so on.

The event which made JARM members aware of the importance of internationalization was the 8th World Congress of the International Rehabilitation Medicine Association (IRMA VIII) in 1997 in Kyoto.

The theme was “Across the bridge toward the 21st century.” This congress had 557 participants from 55 foreign countries, 1,089 participants from Japan and 936 presentations given. Moreover, it was a great opportunity to obtain information on the most advanced rehabilitation medicine in the world and to let everyone know that Japan is well advanced in the area. Through this event, one-to-one human interactions developed to many-to-many interactions.

In this movement to promote internationalization, Committee on International Affairs was appointed by the JARM Board of Governors in January 1999. The missions of this Committee are international exchanges and collaboration in the field of rehabilitation medicine. The Committee is supposed to promote the following four actions:

  1. Nomination of Corresponding and/or Honorary Members abroad

  2. Establishment of traveling fellowship program for young JARM members and exchange fellowship for the foreign rehabilitation physicians

  3. Collection and distribution of information related international conferences and overseas conferences

  4. Planning and co-hosting international conferences on PM&R in Asia

JARM needs partner organization and personnel in the foreign countries to promote international cooperation/collaboration. Corresponding / International Honorary Members are among such partners who are leading rehabilitation organization and medical specialists in their countries and will be able to recommend and/or accept qualified fellows to exchange knowledge and expertise in rehabilitation medicine, to support collaboration research, to contribute to joint development such as establishing rehabilitation organization in the developing countries and international standard as to rehabilitation, to co-host international conferences on rehabilitation medicine, etc. Nomination of these Members has been done annually since 2000.

Traveling Fellowship Program is another highlight of the Committee on International Affairs. The fellowship for the JARM members encourages qualified young members to visit rehabilitation institutions abroad and/or to present a paper in an overseas conference on PM&R. That for foreign physicians (Traveling Fellowship Program for Foreign Physicians) subsidizes the qualified rehabilitation specialists for a part of traveling expenses who are planning to visit rehabilitation institutions in Japan for academic exchanges and/or to make presentations at JARM-affiliated meeting in Japan.

JARM hosted New Millennium Asian Symposium on Rehabilitation Medicine in February 2001, which was held in Tokyo as one of the international exchange programs of JARM. The Symposium numbered 188 participants, including 23 speakers from 13 areas: Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, China/Macao/Hong Kong, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.Among many topics in rehabilitation medicine, postgraduate training, rehabilitation medical specialty, CBR, and international cooperation were focused.

This Symposium is outlined in J Rehabil Med 34: 1-4, 2002 under the title of “Current status of rehabilitation medicine in Asia: a report from New Millennium Asian Symposium on Rehabilitation Medicine.” The post Symposium meeting was also held, and twenty-eight Asian rehabilitation leaders, 21 from Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, China/Macao, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia and 7 from Japan, gathered to talk freely about the need and significance of Asian organization of rehabilitation medicine.