A first-hand look at western medicine

(Edmonton) Four students from China who are here on an exchange program through the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta say they are learning valuable new skills from their introduction to the practice of western medicine.

The medical students are soaking up as much knowledge as they can before they return home in late June.

The students finished their MD program through Shantou University Medical College, and are now working on a two-year clinical master’s degree specializing in radiology and diagnostic imaging. They each have one more year of study before they will become radiologists.

Shantou University, the only privately funded public university in China, has a strong medical school known for its leading research. The university is funded by Li Ka-shing, a businessman and philanthropist who strongly values education. The Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, based in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, was created in 2010 through the combined gifts of $25 million from the Li Ka Shing (Canada) Foundation and $2.5 million from the government of Alberta.

The students taking part in the six-week exchange program at the University of Alberta are Junbin Du, Jieling Liang, Fenxiong Liang and Hongyi Zheng. To be selected for the Canadian exchange program, they needed to have high grades and successfully complete an interview process.

“I think it is a good opportunity to see how a different medical system operates and to see how medicine is practised outside of China,” says Jieling Liang. She says she is thankful for the opportunity and looking forward to sharing her new-found knowledge with classmates at Shantou. 

Fenxiong Liang added: “I thought it would be a good experience that would allow me to gain knowledge about western medical education. It is very different from Chinese medical education.” Liang noted he has learned a great deal about biopsies and what an important tool it can be when treating patients. “Biopsies can give you better knowledge of a patient, more than what you would know through just an exam or scan.”

Ed Wiebe, the faculty’s director of undergraduate education in radiology and a staff radiologist at the U of A Hospital, is mentoring the students while they are here. They are learning about radiology practice in a tertiary-care setting, observing the clinical practice of medical imaging and attending teaching sessions in various subspecialty areas of imaging.

"I want to give these students a sense of the role of medical imaging in patient care in the Canadian setting, as well as to strengthen their knowledge base in radiology and medical imaging", says Wiebe.

John Chiu, the faculty’s special advisor to China and an associate clinical professor in the departments of family medicine and psychiatry, set up the student exchange program. For the last three years, the faculty has also sent medical students to Shantou University Medical College for a four-week elective course that teaches Canadian students about Chinese medicine. Chiu is currently working on organizing faculty exchanges between the two medical schools as well, which should officially happen sometime during the next two years.

While in China, U of A medical students focus on three key areas: learning about traditional Chinese medicine; learning about and working in the Medical Aid for the Poor system—a program developed to bring medical care to villages for those who can’t afford or don’t otherwise have access to health-care services—and working with the national hospital program where doctors and nurses specialize in treating palliative-care patients. The accommodation and other associated costs for Canadian medical students are all paid for by Ka-shing.

Video links:

To learn more about the exchange students: http://www.youtube.com/user/FoMDcommsteam#p/a/u/1/jZwgisTyYlI