What does an American medical university offer that can’t be had at a Chinese institution? And what’s the answer if you flip that question around?
Four distinguished scholars and researchers from Hefei, China visited NEOMED on Monday. As the men from Anhui Medical University (AMU) met NEOMED president Jay A. Gershen, D.D.S., Ph.D.; toured labs; talked with students, faculty and university leadership; and posed by the walking whale skeleton, they gathered ideas.
The two institutions know one thing already: They’re eager to continue to grow a collaboration that includes pharmacy, medicine and research in ways that benefit students, faculty and researchers from the Chinese city of Hefei (pronounced Huff-A) and Northeast Ohio alike.
The Rootstown visit was the latest step of a cultural exchange. This fall, seven Chinese students from Anhui have settled into apartments at The Village, ready for a year of study in NEOMED’s College of Pharmacy.
On Monday’s extensive tour of NEOMED’s research facilities, the group spent time with faculty who lead several of the University’s five research focus areas. From the orange halls of the REDIzone, Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., explained how his research in bone loss and repair—and products like Osteoactivin, his new solution for bone healing—are fueled by this entrepreneurial public-private laboratory space.
Dr. Safadi, who directs the Musculoskeletal Biology Research Focus Area at NEOMED, explained that in the REDIzone, current bench-to-bedside research on topics like pathogen detection, wound healing and transdermal drug delivery quietly hums along every day.
Collaboration is key at NEOMED. When Jason Richardson, Ph.D., spoke about the research focus area of Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging, which he directs, he pointed to the benefits of easy access to the veteran NEOMED researcher John Chiang, Ph.D. His colleague is working to develop a bile acid-based drug that can cure alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
At the conference room by Dr. Chiang’s lab, the group took time for a chat—mostly in Chinese, since Dr. Chiang grew up in Taiwan and is bilingual. Afterward, Dr. Chiang said the international exchange between Anhui and NEOMED is important to both institutions—both for research and for education.
NEOMED’s Expertise in Teaching Patient Care
Dr. Chiang said that the Chinese delegation was eager to learn about NEOMED’s teaching methods. “They like to learn from us because we have smaller group discussions, small groups, and so forth,’’ he said.
“Also, they think that one of the problems their students have after they graduate is how to apply their knowledge from school to patient care,’’ he said. Understanding how to teach students to work with patients was especially appealing to the Anhui (pronounced On QWAY) leaders, said Dr. Chiang. NEOMED has expertise in teaching students to focus on developing good relationships with patients. Just one example is through training at NEOMED’s Wasson Center, where standardized patients (usually community members) play the role of patients so that students can learn interviewing techniques.
Shared Concerns, Mutual Benefits
Dr. Chiang’s work in liver disease was especially interesting to the visitors because of the high incidence of alcoholism in China. In this area, collaborating could be especially significant: When Dr. Chiang’s research progresses to the stage of conducting clinical trials, it would benefit from the huge patient base available in the large hospital affiliated with Anhui Medical University.
There is enormous potential for everyone involved, said Dr. Chiang, since liver disease is a serious problem in both countries. One member of the Chinese group listening attentively was Jun Li, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the Institute for Liver Diseases at Anhui Medical University and a professor at the School of Pharmacy. Another of the four men, Dr. Li’s colleague Hua Wang, an oncology professor at AMU’s affiliated hospital, is a researcher who worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland before joining AMU’s Institute for Liver Diseases.
Filling out the group was Quing Wu, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the AMU School of International Education, and Yong Jin, Ph.D., associate dean of the AMU School of Pharmacy. After a day of lively conversation and cultural exchange, the delegation went on its way.