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Reflections on recent travels to China

Picture from China Trip

Internationalization is a word often heard around Western University, and even in the press, but what does it mean for us at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?

Internationalization encompasses part of our strategic plan to be part of the global initiative to improve life-long health for all. It’s a lofty goal, but we are working toward it on a daily basis.

There are many reasons why partnerships with organizations in other countries are important in both the short- and long-term. In the short-term, it forges relationships and enhances the opportunities for our students to have exposure to cultures and different perspectives.

Of note, there was a recent editorial in the journal Science which highlighted the importance of having different perspectives to enhance the ability to answer novel questions and to survive in the long-term in the global market place.

In addition to providing opportunities for international students to study here, these partnerships provide opportunities for our students to have destinations where they can be involved in collaborations and/or study. Both of these provide enhanced appreciation of the global environment which affects all of scientific discovery and health issues.

In the longer term, these strategic partnerships provide exchanges of researchers, trainees and faculty, with enhanced opportunities for research productivity and funding which would otherwise not be available. These form a foundation for expanded capabilities for individuals at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, as well as increasing the reputation of the School as a major player on the world stage. As such, they have overarching mutual benefits to our international partners as well as for those of us at Western.

Below I share with you some of the highlights from our recent trip to China.

Travel log from recent trip to China

Five faculty members from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry just returned from China, one of the School’s designated five strategic regions, where we were involved in several different activities on a whirlwind trip that had immediate and long-term goals. Drs. Michael Strong, Bertha Garcia, Gary Tithecott, Scott McKay and I represented the School during interactions at four locations where we have been involved with our educational and research partnerships.

In Chengdu, which has the longest history of a formal relationship with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, Drs. Strong and Garcia and I interacted with the senior members of our partners at the West China Hospital and Sichuan University to discuss opportunities for exchange of medical students and faculty. There was also an opportunity to meet with several of their students who spent a year in London supported by the China Scholarship Council, as well as five students who were selected this year and will be arriving in late August. One other objective was the dual PhD program between Sichuan University and Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, which needed confirmation of renewal for the end of June.

The next stop was Shanghai, where we were joined by Dr. Tithecott and received a very warm welcome at the Shanghai Military Medical Hospital — a place where a few of our medical students spent time last summer. It was very informative to see their facilities, as well as the centre for traditional Chinese medicine.

The evening ended with a cruise along the river to see the impressive building lights at night. Those of us from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry were not familiar with the concept of locked compounds and were in a bit of a surprise with a 9:00 p.m. “lockdown” of campus — and no TVs in the rooms either.

We next went to Nanjing, where we visited a rock quarry where a memorial carving had been started during the Han dynasty, but after 10 years it was not completed as further construction was abandoned. Initially, I admit that visiting a rock quarry didn’t sound too interesting until we actually saw the rock carving out of the hillside and understood why it was 10 years and still not complete. What we saw was the carving of three sections out of the rock, the base, the long vertical section and the capstone. When completed, the full memorial would have stood about 20 stories high. It would also have had to be moved downhill a distance of about 17 km to its final erection site. In addition to the stone carving, that move would itself have been quite a feat! We also toured the new hospital at Nanjing Medical University, which had just been opened for patients three weeks before.

The next day we were joined by Dr. McKay for the start of the Third Annual Joint Western University – Nanjing Medical University Symposium. The theme of this symposium was primary care and medical education. Dr. Garcia and her team put considerable effort into expanding this symposium to include a series of workshops on the second day. Next year, London will host the follow-up Symposium that continues this educational theme, with a focus on medical education and simulation.

On the second day, while Drs. Garcia, Tithecott and MacDonald were running workshops, Dr. Strong and I were discussing opportunities for research and collaboration as well as graduate programs, in addition to an update on the agreement from last year for students to join Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Master of Public Health Program. Part of this day was dedicated to the signing of the agreement for up to five students from Nanjing to complete three years of their undergraduate program and then join the School’s Bachelor of Medical Sciences program with the opportunity for a subsequent accelerated master’s program. As their students are just completing the second year of their new program, they will not be eligible for entry to the third year of our BMSc program until September 2017.

We continued on to Suzhou to meet with Dr. Sidong Xiong, the newly appointed President of Soochow University (Suda), to sign two additional agreements that have been in the works for more than a year. The first agreement was for a 2+2 PhD program, where a student would have a supervisor in each location and spend two years at each University. The second agreement was for up to five students from Suda, after completion of three years of their undergraduate program, to enter into the third year of our BMSc program, likely in September 2017.


Doug L. Jones, PhD
Vice Dean, Basic Medical Sciences

View a slideshow of pictures from China below.