UT partners with university in China to improve the study of medicine

June 4, 2013 | Features, UToday, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
By Haraz N. Ghanbari

Far from their homes in China, visiting scholars are practicing their English while learning new teaching methods they hope to incorporate into their own classrooms.

The five scholars whose disciplines involve pharmacology, microbiology and immunology, biochemistry, pathology and physiology are paired with mentors from UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences as well as the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

UT’s relationship with North Sichuan Medical College began in 2002, and Dr. Johnnie L. Early II, dean of the UT College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, notes the two institutions are revisiting their memorandums of understanding with a new agreement he expects to be signed in June.

The North Sichuan Medical College is a government-run college of medicine in Sichuan Province. Established in 1951, North Sichuan has nearly 15,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.

“I have been on their campus at least twice and have seen their facilities both for student living and for learning,” Early said. “Their teaching labs on campus are quite comparable to ours, and they’ve added a pharmacy school, so we are a really good match.”

The underlying emphasis for the partnership is faculty exchange programs providing avenues for research collaboration and the sharing of knowledge across borders.

There are 12 undergraduate and graduate specialties at North Sichuan: clinical medicine, imaging medicine, laboratory medicine, stomatology, anesthesiology, nursing, integrated medicine of traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine, forensics, ophthalmology, biomedical engineering, health service management, and medical English.

“I find there are many differences between our colleges,” said Dr. Lin Mo, a lecturer of pathology at North Sichuan. “For example, a pathology teacher at UT talks more about how the disease happens and the relationship between the disease and the clinical symptoms. Teachers give more cases to discuss … this is a good because the students can understand the disease very well.”

Mo said in a similar class taught at North Sichuan, professors lecture more about the structural and functional changes in cells, tissues and organs while not providing an opportunity for students to ask questions.

“In China, it is just teachers talking and students listening,” Mo said. “I want the students to think more about it instead of just listening to the lecture.”

North Sichuan has more than 10 teaching departments, including preclinical and clinical medicine, seven research departments, a rheumatism research center, three preclinical experimental centers, one clinical medicine skill center, two clinical medicine skill centers, two clinical hospitals, nine affiliated hospitals, two clinical medicine schools and 39 teaching hospitals.

While traditional Chinese medical practices are rooted in almost 5,000 years of history providing for a more holistic approach compared to the typical Western medicine of capsules, tablets and liquids that target specific symptoms, the visiting scholars note the commonalties.

“Chinese traditional medicine has many, many ingredients, but the chemistry is the same as Western medicine,” said Dr. Yongyan Song, a lecturer of biochemistry at North Sichuan. “The role of the pharmacy is to put it all together.”

The years of teaching experience for the visiting scholars range from three to eight years, and all are eager to take what they’ve learned at UT and put it to practice with the international students enrolled at North Sichuan Medical College.

“We have spent all of our time in China,” said Dr. Jinxia Chang, a lecturer of microbiology and immunology, who noted the main foreign language studied in China is English. “It has been good to observe the teaching methods and improve our English so we can go back and give our medical students bilingual teaching.”

According to Early, the exchange program will continue this summer when for the first time, two doctor of pharmacy students will visit China for about four weeks to practice pharmacy within the North Sichuan Medical College campus facilities.

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