During a warm Friday summer morning, excitement filled the air as the Project HOPE team in China, along with Qian Geng, HOPE’s Regional Director of China visiting from the U.S., gathered at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center (SCMC) auditorium to kick-off the graduation ceremony of the 2012 Rural Fellows Program. The ceremony celebrated the 25 new graduates from the Class of 2012 who will be returning to their hometowns with new medical skills, and also inaugurated the new Class of 2013.
“This was an especially commemorative occasion as it is also the 10th anniversary of this very important and successful program with SCMC,” Geng said in her speech to the graduates. “The success of the Rural Fellows Program has been outstanding based on survey feedback from fellows that have gone through the program,” she added.
Project HOPE conducts follow-up surveys to assess outcome and impacts of the graduates after they return to their respective rural areas. The Class of 2012 fellow/spokesperson gave a very touching speech expressing appreciation for all the great opportunities and experiences they’ve been blessed with. She also shared that the group raised a cat together during their year at SCMC.
The Class of 2013 already selected their class spokesperson, a rural fellow who spoke of the class’s excitement and commitment to try and live up to the expectations and hope for their class.
Project HOPE initiated the Rural Fellows Program in 2002 in partnership with SCMC and each year the program recruits 25 doctors and nurses from rural areas, with a focus on the western and north-eastern parts of China. Project HOPE sponsors each fellow on a scholarship to live and study at SCMC for a one year period. During this one year period, each rural fellow follows a tailored training curriculum that is designed specifically for the fellow based on his/her professional needs. Each fellow is also assigned a mentor to help provide life skill guidance and teach him/her new medical and clinical skills. The program includes rotational training that takes each fellow through different departments within SCMC to expand their exposure, knowledge and skills. Each fellow is then required to pass an exam at each rotational point. As each fellow is expected to bring back their skills and continue “casting the web of knowledge and skills” in their rural area, special attention is given to equip each fellow with trainer capabilities and presentation skills. Every graduating fellow is required to successfully compose and deliver a training session on a specific disease or clinical practice. For their hard work and dedication, SCMC and HOPE sponsor an annual holiday weekend outing for each graduating class to visit a new city, unwind and celebrate their time together before graduation. See my blog on the Class of 2012's fun and relaxing outing to the Qian Dao Lake (千島湖) aka “Thousand Island Lake.”
An example of the success of this program is the exceptional medical responses by the Chengdu Children’s Hospital to victims of the earthquake in 2008. The Chengdu medical team attributed their success to the professional skills and knowledge that their staff gained from this rural training program. To date, this program has trained 249 professionals from 18 Provinces. There is no better confirmation than this, and there are many other examples to demonstrate how successful this program has been. I think this is an excellent illustration of the dedication and foresight of Project HOPE and SCMC, and I’ve heard different conversations of this team exploring other ways to ‘cast new webs of knowledge and skills’ to bring health opportunities to people everywhere! On a personal note, I miss seeing some of the rural fellows from the Class of 2012 during lunch and walking around SCMC in the evenings. One fellow in particular from the Kunming area touched my heart with her resonating kindness to people and passion for healing patients. I smile as I think of her and feel happy that our path crossed briefly.
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