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Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on October 22, 2010

Labels: China , Global Health Expertise, Women’s and Children’s Health

Today, I walked with heroes along the banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

Most of these heroes stood no taller than the height of my waist, but their big hearts and enthusiasm for life were unmatched. I’m talking about a group of young cancer and heart disease patients who accompanied me to the World Expo along Shanghai’s Huangpu River.

Some of my physician colleagues at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center may be upset with me when they learn that their young patients didn’t get much sleep the previous night due to their anticipation of visiting the Expo. However, as seen in the energy from this young group of patients, there were no side effects from sleep deprivation to be found.

With wide eyes and even wider smiles, the children were warmly greeted by the High Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion, Jose Villarreal. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton personally selected Jose to direct the country’s presence at the 2010 Expo through the USA Pavilion.

Jose rolled out the red carpet for the children, giving them an experience of a lifetime, as they left their concerns behind at the hospital for the day. It was a highlight for me as well. I will never forget the joy on the children’s faces.

But there were other heroes in our Expo entourage as well. In fact, because of these heroes, some of the children with heart defects in our group are alive today.

These heroes go by the names of Dr. Richard Jonas, Dr. Henry Issenberg and Peggy Hicks, R.N. These three heroes, and others, came to Shanghai more than 15 years ago to begin training the surgeons and nurses who would staff the pediatric cardiac surgery program at the SCMC. The three heroes are here with me at the Expo to enjoy the experience with the children and to catch their breath before they begin a full agenda of meetings at the World Society for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery Conference at the SCMC.

Drs. Jonas and Issenberg, as well as Ms. Hicks, selflessly gave of their time and talents to make sure the children of China, particularly those with heart defects, had the opportunity to receive the care they needed, and deserved, at the hands of Chinese doctors and nurses.

Early on, this dynamic team of doctors and nurses from the U.S. frequently traveled to Shanghai to provide hands-on training to their Chinese peers. They also hosted the Chinese doctors and nurses at their respective hospitals back in the States for further training opportunities.

Their generosity and hard work paid off. In twelve short years, the American trainers watched their trainees flourish. Today, the SCMC is the #1 hospital in the world for pediatric cardiac surgery. And literally thousands of lives, including the lives of some of the children in our group at the Expo, have been saved.

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