Discussions held for public health collaboration in China

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC public affairs | October 23, 2008

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Jin Ma, Ph.D., professor and executive director, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Public Health, and Keith Mueller, Ph.D., interim director of the UNMC College of Public Health, in front of Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The two met Tuesday to discuss possible future collaboration possibilities.
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Tao Li, left, a fourth-year medical student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, wants to come to Omaha after he graduates next June to try to earn his master's degree in public health at UNMC. He's seen here with Keith Mueller, Ph.D., interim dean of the UNMC College of Public Health.
SHANGHAI -- The UNMC College of Public Health and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Public Health have a common bond -- each is developing new programs.

UNMC's College of Public Health became operational in January 2007, while Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Public Health got its start in 2002.

Both schools are moving forward to build programs that will benefit their constituents.

The UNMC College of Public Health is one of just 39 public health colleges in the United States. It is the only college of public health in Nebraska and the only college of public health in a large north central region of the country spanning 1,400 miles east-west and 800 miles north-south.

China has about 60 public health colleges. In just six years, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Public Health has already moved into the second tier of public health schools in China, ranking just behind the country's eight first tier schools.

On Tuesday, the two schools took the first step in possibly establishing a collaborative relationship.

Keith Mueller, Ph.D., interim dean of the UNMC College of Public Health, sat down with Jin Ma, Ph.D., professor and executive dean of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Public Health.

For slightly more than an hour, they visited in Dr. Ma's office. It was a good meeting, and it got the ball rolling for potential collaborations in the future.

"We like to learn from other countries, especially America," Dr. Ma said. "You could help us do community and rural health programs. Research is very important, and our faculty needs to get their papers published. It's very important (that we collaborate) if we want to push the program."

For UNMC, Dr. Mueller thinks there could be three potential areas of collaboration:

  • Opportunities for students to study in the other's school;
  • Faculty collaboration on research and education; and
  • Potential new students from China for UNMC's Ph.D. programs in public health.

"We need to put some words on paper and get more specific, and I'll be happy to do this," he said. "This would be the first collaborative effort in our college. We would welcome two or three students from China in our Ph.D. programs every year, provided they meet our qualification standards."

Jialin Zheng, M.D., director of UNMC's Asia Pacific Rim Development Program, and a Chinese medical student, Tao Li, also were on hand for the meeting.

Dr. Zheng assured Dr. Ma that UNMC would be a strong collaborator.

"We are the best," he said. "If we plan to do something, we stick to it. That's the way it is with people from the Midwest."

Li is in the fourth year of medical school at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and will earn his medical degree next June.

He knows all about Omaha, as Dr. Zheng arranged for him to be part of an exchange program last March. He was in Omaha for more than three months and fell in love with the city and the state.

"I think Nebraska people are very friendly and very nice," Li said. "They keep their word. It's peaceful."

Li, who earned an engineering degree prior to entering medical school, is hoping to get a master's degree in public health after he completes medical school. He would love to do this at UNMC.

"I love to help people," he said. "It (public health) is the best choice if you want people to have a longer and better life."