UNMC delegation shares favorite memories of China

Compiled by Tom O'Connor, UNMC public affairs | October 29, 2008

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Don Leuenberger, vice chancellor for business and finance, and Gang Huang, M.D., Ph.D., vice dean of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (SJTUSM), go over their notes prior to making a presentation to SJTUSM medical students.
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Tina Anderson and Jayme Nekuda pose in front of a mannequin display depicting some of the costumes worn at the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The display is in the Bird's Nest, where track and field events were held. Anderson is a nurse anesthetist for the UNMC Department of Anesthesiology, while Nekuda is division director for UNMC's benefits and work life programs.
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Jeff Harrison, M.D., left, plays the role of family medicine physician as he meets with two simulated patients, Herbert Husker (Paul Paulman, M.D.) and his wife, Helen (Connie Harrison). The role playing exercise demonstrated to the Chinese physicians in attendance how family medicine physicians deal with their patients.
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Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine hosted a dinner for some members of the UNMC delegation. Attendees included (left-right): Weijie Ni, Jialin Zheng, M.D., Guoyao Tang, M.D., Leuenberger, Tom O'Connor, and Le Tang. Dr. Guoyao Tang is deputy secretary of SJTUSM and hosted the dinner.
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Rod Markin, M.D., Ph.D., takes in the spectacular site of the Great Wall of China. The wall is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
A delegation of UNMC faculty and staff members recently returned from a trip to China that saw the medical center forge and strengthen relationships with several institutions in that country.

Below some of the members of the UNMC contingent reflect on their trip and share some memories from China.

"For reasons that are immediately obvious, China is always memorable. This trip, however, encompassed three cities, three universities, two major hospital systems, a major institute of the Chinese Academy of Science, two UNMC co-sponsored symposia and UNMC's official debut as a full participant with the China Scholarship Council -- all admirably covered for UNMC Today by Tom O'Connor.

"All this was more than eased wherever we went by the constant attentiveness and almost overwhelming hospitality of our Chinese hosts. I believe we have built strong relationships in China on an institutional level. I believe UNMC is truly valued as a significant education and research partner. But I am invariably surprised by the strength of our personal relations. With joint symposia, signing of agreements, etc., the most memorable aspect of visiting China has been the renewal of rewarding friendships." -- Don Leuenberger, vice chancellor, business and finance

"It has been my great pleasure to show my colleagues around -- either for their first trip or for their follow-up trips. I truly enjoyed being with a group of people from the heartland of the United States to show our partners that we are not only being partners professionally, but we also are fun people to be associated with. I believe our UNMC delegation truly showed the outside world such important images.

"Overall, I believe to build a world class institution as Chancellor (Harold M.) Maurer (M.D.) envisions, we must have sustained and long term international partners with high or potentially high international reputations. This visit and our past and future visits are for this goal, and I believe we have made progress each time during our long but very productive journey. At the same time, I remembered someone has mentioned to me many times the following quote and I would like to borrow it here, 'Life is a journey, not a destination.' While we enjoy our accomplishments each time, we have and will continue to enjoy this valuable journey." -- Jialin Zheng, M.D., director, Asia Pacific Rim Development Program

"The hospitality, friendliness and courtesy of the Chinese people is truly impressive. In a city of 16 million Chinese, I never once felt uncomfortable or out of place. The Chinese are far and away the best drivers I have ever seen. They merge, speed and avoid the many bikes and pedestrians without ever raising their tempers or hitting anything. It is awe inspiring to stand in the Forbbiden City reading about temples built in the 1400s and realize that America had not yet been discovered. The tradition of toasting with Maotai to cement relationships will remain one of my favorite memories." -- Jeff Harrison, M.D., associate professor, family medicine

"My most memorable moment was touring an emergency room in Shanghai. They see 500 to 600 patients each day and 400,000 patients each year. Some patients are in the ER for up to two weeks before they are dismissed. Even after seeing this huge volume of patients, the staff was all friendly and still smiling ... amazing.

"My biggest accomplishment on the trip was crossing a six-lane roundabout in rush hour traffic. Run don't walk. I also thought the Terracotta Warriors were amazing." -- Christine "Tina" Anderson, nurse anesthetist, anesthesiology

"My most memorable moment was presenting the concept of health promotion/wellness at the family medicine symposium in Xi'an. I believe this concept was a totally new one for the Chinese. It was challenging to speak and have it translated to the audience. I had never done this before.

"Stepping foot on the track in the Bird's Nest was surreal. It was amazing knowing that the fastest men and women to ever run were here running on this track just a few months earlier. It also was very interesting to see some of the costumes displayed on the field that were worn in the Olympics."-- Jayme "Jimmy J" Nekuda, division director, benefits and work life programs

"It was great to greet the Nebraska/UNMC delegation at the hotel on Oct. 13. After six weeks in Beijing, it was the first conversation I could participate in where I could understand each word or phrase without asking for repetition or concentrating so hard to make sure I understood.

"My teaching experience at the Graduate University Chinese Academy of Science was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Each day I met another student or had a conversation that illustrated how sincerely interested the Chinese people are in learning about America. In fact, the evening I was scheduled to speak (on the topic of American humor) to the English Club, the talk was moved from the original lecture hall to an auditorium with 300 seats. Every seat was filled and every door and aisle had people standing. Contrary to what people had told me to expect, the students were eager to ask questions. After 45 minutes, a small group of 10 to 12 people walked with me back to my apartment to continue the conversation." -- Jan Leuenberger, who taught a course on American culture in Beijing

"My most vivid memory was the return from our visit to the Terracotta Warriors and getting stuck in a two-hour traffic jam. People in vehicles stranded around us simply got out of their vehicles and visited with others, took walks and did exercises. The next was crossing through a six-lane roundabout in Xi'an. I simply followed the lead of the other resident 'cross walkers' and went when they went. It was a thrill.

"As far as business-related memories, it had to be the tours of the First Affiliated Hospital of the Medical College of Xi'an Jiaotong University. We toured both level one and level two facilities. It was a very straight forward tour and visit, and they showed us exactly what they do. We met with the mayors from the province as well as first-line providers. What these folks would like to incorporate is the future model of health care in China. They want to be pioneers. They want to practice family medicine, and this is where the UNMC family medicine model comes into play.

"I had the opportunity to discuss in detail what is needed to implement this model using both physicians and the introduction of mid-level practitioners. During our next visit, I would like to spend time in the rural parts of China and take UNMC mid-level practitioners along. During my discussions with both the mayors and university officials, one theme always seemed to be, 'You University of Nebraska Medical Center folks ... you say it and then you do it.' I believe this is true. We walk the talk. That's why we are world leaders in health care and research." -- Keith Swarts, director, business services

"The most memorable thing about the trip was that the minister of health from Shaanxi Province came to the Family Medicine Short Course opening ceremony. The Chinese government's enthusiasm in development of family medicine is very impressive. The second most memorable thing is the display of friendship between the Chinese medical universities and the UNMC faculty and staff. The third most memorable thing was going to the book publisher in Beijing and meeting with the Zhang Deliang, the director of Science Press Publishing, along with the physician who actually translated our book into Chinese." -- Audrey Paulman, M.D., clinical associate professor, family medicine

"I enjoyed the trip to China. My most memorable image is Tom O'Connor's face when we sat down for dinner on the first night in Beijing! The Chinese people are very nice and respectful. We were taken care of like kings and queens. The Great Wall was great. The Terracotta Warriors also were very interesting. The best part was traveling with Keith Swarts. The maniac is always on the move. He is the man!" -- Rodney S. Markin, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO, UNMC Physicians, and the David T. Purtilo Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Microbiology

"My favorite China trip memories were:

  • Meeting with the publisher in Beijing (Science Press) who translated our textbook, "Taylor's 10 Minute Diagnosis Handbook," into Chinese for the developing network of family physicians and primary care doctors in China. The people at Science Press were incredibly gracious to us and sent gift books back for our guests who stay at the APRDP house here on campus.
  • Serving as one of 'Gen.' Rod Markin's pseudo Terracotta Warrior archers at the Terracotta Museum site in Xi'an. All his warriors hope Gen. Markin proves to be a wise and noble leader in battle, and we're also glad that the other warriors are made of clay ... easier to defeat!
  • Being a simulated patient ("Herbert Husker") in the role play for Drs. Audrey Paulman and Kai Fu's course on the basics of family medicine for the faculty and practicing doctors at Xi'an Jiaotong University School of Medicine. The participants (standing room only crowd) seemed to appreciate the course. Many came from hundreds of miles away and stayed until the very end of the two-day course.
" -- Paul Paulman, M.D., assistant dean for clinical skills and quality, College of Medicine

"My Top 10 memories and observations from China were:
1. The Chinese are warm, caring people. They couldn't have been more gracious. It's universal. On the plane ride home, I sat next to a Chinese gentleman who offered me an apple and some nuts.
2. UNMC is truly a player in China. It has three great university partners in China, and there is tremendous mutual respect between UNMC and these universities. Now, we have a new partnership with the China Scholarship Council -- a major accomplishment that puts our university in elite company. The UNMC short course in family medicine was a grand slam that -- over time -- could potentially revolutionize health care for millions of people in China.
3. Lots of Chinese students want to study in the United States. It is very prestigious for Chinese students to earn a degree in the U.S.
4. Don't rent a car in China. It is a wild place to drive. Leave it to the professionals.
5. The architecture in China is at another level compared to the U.S. I especially loved the Bird's Nest in Beijing. The number of breathtaking buildings in Shanghai boggles the mind.
6. Everybody in China has a cell phone or Blackberry.
7. Bike riders are everywhere. I'm amazed how they weave in and out of traffic ... many of them texting on their cell phones.
8. I love the way the Chinese like to do 'toasts' at their meals. What a great tradition and a great way of showing that they care about their American visitors.
9. Chinese cuisine is truly unique. I did 14 full-blown Chinese meals during our 11-day visit. I swear each meal ranged between 15 and 35 different items. To say I broadened my taste in food would be an understatement. My mother, who could never get me to eat all my vegetables, would have been proud.
10. At one of the hotels in Beijing, there was an elderly Chinese man in a classy, full-length robe. He worked the elevators. When an elevator arrived, he would direct you to it, extend his arm, and say, 'Please.' Too cool." -- Tom O'Connor, senior associate director, public affairs