Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on October 19, 2010

Labels: China , Global Health Expertise, Health Care Education, Health Systems Strengthening

As I entered the Great Hall at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, I was taken by surprise by what I heard. No, it was not the commotion of the more than 900,000 children and their families who receive care at the hospital each year. It was the music of Chopin played on a grand piano.

A talented Fudan university student volunteers her time each week to turn the Great Hall into a concert hall. And by the expressions on the faces of the parents and their children, the music was a welcome distraction.

My real purpose for visiting the SCMC was to meet a special group of doctors and nurses who have come to the hospital from virtually every corner of China to participate in a year-long training program coordinated by Project HOPE.

Called the Rural Fellows Training Program, 25 doctors and nurses leave their home hospitals, and their families, to be trained in advanced medical techniques. Over the past eight years, Project HOPE and the SCMC staff have trained more than 200 rural fellows.

When the fellows return to their hospitals, not only do they bring new experiences and skills to improve patient care, but also knowledge to share with their colleagues. In fact, the train-the-trainer model is one reason why rural fellows chose to enlist in the program.

One doctor in this year’s class comes from China’s autonomous prefecture near the North Korea border called Yanbian. She caught me off guard, when I asked her what the most common ailment was in her hometown. Her response: vitamin D deficiency. She explained that in China’s northern regions the days were short and people often don’t get enough sunlight.

However, when I inquired of her classmates what illnesses they see most often, a familiar nemesis reappeared – pneumonia. Just as I saw in Honduras and Nicaragua last month, pneumonia is a significant problem throughout China, from the northwestern Province of Xinjiang that borders Kazakhstan to the southernmost Province Guangzi as reported by the Rural Fellows I met with.

Also, I met a heroic nurse who was one of the first responders to this year’s 6.9 magnitude earthquake that struck her home province of Qinghai. She expressed gratitude to be part of the Rural Fellows program and is looking forward to taking her new skills, such as advanced life support training, back to her colleagues so that they will be better prepared to face another natural disaster.

Just as the piano music in SCMC’s Great Hall warmed my heart, I left the hospital at the end of the day with a sense of pride knowing that Project HOPE’s lifesaving influence is spreading across China and the more than 37 countries around the world where there is HOPE.


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