UAlberta to help develop formal rehabilitation medicine program in China

New branch campus and other opportunities in the works for Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine as a result of new partnership.


The University of Alberta will help train more rehabilitation professionals and enhance rehabilitation research in China thanks to a new partnership between the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Guanghua International Education Association.

“We are very excited about this partnership and what it means for delivery of services in China. (This Memorandum of Understanding) also shows people in China appreciate the need for rehabilitation. You survived the stroke—now how do you speak, walk again or get back to your daily life? After and before surgery or medical treatment, there is the quality of life and functional aspect of modern health-care, and that’s rehabilitation,” said Bob Haennel, interim dean of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Rehabilitation practice and education in China started much later compared to developed countries, according to Lihua Gong, secretary-general and vice president of Guanghua International Education Association (GIEA).

“Because of the rapidly increasing national aging population, rehabilitation medicine receives strong support from the national government and is expected to develop quickly in the coming future. GIEA believes that this partnership and relevant future work will definitely improve the development of Chinese rehabilitation in education, research and practice,” she said.

Developing rehabilitation medicine curriculum

Based on the MOU with GIEA, U of A will partner with hospitals and universities in China to develop rehabilitation curriculum design, continuing professional education courses and research partnerships.

“Given that China has more than 2,000 universities,” said Haennel, “the MOU is a great starting point, with translation of current professional development courses as something we can explore as a first step.”

This summer, the faculty may also be welcoming a cohort of therapists and physicians from China who are interested in neurorehabilitation, said Bernadette Martin, associate dean of strategic initiatives.

“We hope the MOU leads to mobility of faculty and staff between the two countries, the exchange of educational materials and joint research activities,” she added.

Branch campus in China

GIEA is also looking forward to helping the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine set up a branch campus with an international institute for rehabilitation in China in the future.

“We chose the University of Alberta for three reasons: First, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine is one of the leading research and education institutions in rehabilitation in North America or even in the world. Second, U of A has a tradition of international communication and coordination. Third, we appreciate the efficient communication and working together with U of A International,” said Gong.

Home to the only free-standing Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in North America, U of A has the largest English-training programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology in Canada. Known as a research leader in healthy aging for seniors, musculoskeletal health and neuroscience and rehabilitation, the faculty has helped develop curriculum in several other countries including a recent partnership with Universidad Del Rosario in Colombia.

“The partnership in China will open many doors for both countries and speaks to the success of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in Alberta as a respected global leader in advancing rehabilitation,” said Martin, who was also on the recent trip to China.

The MOU is one of several key agreements the U of A signed with Chinese partners as part of a wider Government of Alberta trade mission, led by Premier Rachel Notley, to strengthen ties with the province’s second-largest trading partner.

“I am extremely proud to support the University of Alberta and TEC Edmonton in forming relationships with such innovative partners in China,” said Notley in a statement. “We look forward to seeing this partnership thrive, and to watching Alberta’s expertise across a variety of areas, not only create opportunities for Albertans, but make a difference around the world.”