Building stronger global health together

UAlberta's Young Physician Training Program helps international learners grow in their field.

Ross Neitz - 17 May 2017

When Zhu-Lin first learned she would visit the University of Alberta for a three-month training program, the Chinese surgeon didn't know what to expect. As her program is drawing to a close she has developed a strong appreciation for Canada, its people, and discovered a surprising new interest in ice skating. More importantly, she has gained significant new insights and professional skills she will take home to China to share with colleagues.

"I want to tell them it's an extraordinary experience here," says Zhu-Lin. "If they get the chance, get the opportunity, they have to come here. It will open their eyes and enrich their lives. It's very meaningful."

Zhu-Lin is at the University of Alberta as part of the Young Physician Training Program. The program is offered in partnership with Zhejiang University School of Medicine Fourth Hospital and the Xiamen Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning. Promising young physicians come to the U of A to develop leadership skills and acquire specific training they can apply to their practice in China. The program was established in 2016 through the support of Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry leadership, and is offered to physicians in the fields of cardiology, general surgery and neurology.

Zhu-Lin's efforts have been focused on learning how to perform sentinel lymph node biopsy for people with early-stage breast cancer.

"It's something that's not done in China the way it's done around the world," says David Williams, chair of the U of A's Department of Surgery. "Through her training here she could potentially help the hospital that she's in become a world leader in breast cancer therapy."

"I think having the ability to help mentor other surgeons, be able to take them to that level, is something that comes from the heart. That's something we all want to do as human beings," he adds.Canada flag and Chinese flag

While the partnership is still young, the joint effort is already being seen as a major success. In April the president of Zhejiang University School of Medicine came to the U of A to check on his physicians' progress. He has seen a transformation.

"Our physicians have changed a lot through three months of study here," says president Yagang Chen. "Your doctors and staff paid close attention to them. They gave them a lot of help. They opened their minds and have given them an international view now. It is the result I hoped for."

Chen says he is already working on extending and broadening the partnership with the University of Alberta. The two institutions are hoping to soon work together to train physicians in islet transplantation-an area in which the U of A is a world leader.

As for Zhu-Lin, she is excited to return home with her newly gained knowledge. But while here, she continues to revel in her Canadian experience.

"We are going to try curling on Tuesday! It's another new experience. Very exciting, very fun!"