This past October, 24 Chinese medical professionals participated in a U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) Healthcare Training Program. They attended a week of training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Unlike most Chinese who returned to their hometowns or traveled around China to celebrate the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China, these 24 Chinese visitors spent this “Golden Week” in the classroom at UPMC for training sessions on hospital administrative finance, information technology, handling the media and U.S. insurance. In addition, they had the opportunity to tour several top facilities such as the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and experiment with the stimulation dummy patients at WISER.
After Pittsburgh, the delegation spent two weeks in Chicago, where they participated in training at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) and had the opportunity to hear from several speakers in their field at the U.S.-China Healthcare Cooperation Symposium and Reception.
The delegates represented a variety different provinces, cities, and hospitals. Their academic curiosity and engagement was not limited to their professional meetings; it emerged frequently in their questions and discussions during breaks, at dinner and on weekends. When not discussing precision medicine and quality initiatives, delegates and Meridian staff (with the help of interpreters) compared transportation and traffic jams of the U.S. and China (Meridian refused to believe Pittsburgh traffic was worse than Beijing). The participants discussed when and how much to tip in restaurants, hotels and taxis and about the cost of living in the U.S. (a depressing conversation for DC residents).
In return, the Meridian staff members gained greater insight into Chinese medicine, especially from two high-level delegates from traditional Chinese hospitals, Four of the delegates had birthdays during the visit, which the group celebrated on the last day. At deliciously famous Lao Sze Chuan restaurant in Chinatown, we cut a large chocolate and vanilla cake. The Chinese coordinator told us that each birthday delegate should receive a bowl of noodles – a Chinese tradition that represents a hope for a long life.
The birthday men and women placed the noodles on a Lazy Susan to share with the group. After we all consumed the longevity noodles and birthday cake, we clinked glasses again for the last time to toast gratitude for this unique opportunity to expand professional knowledge, and gain more insight into another country’s culture and people.