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USC to train Chinese physicians at Keck School

USC to Train Chinese Physicians at Keck School
Dilip Parekh, left, signs an educational and research exchange agreement with Yangde Zhang, chair of the World Doctors Endoscopy Association.

Beginning in July, dozens of senior surgeons from hospitals across China will come to USC for training in minimally invasive surgery as part of a new educational and research exchange agreement formalized late last year.

Dilip Parekh, Department of Surgery section chief for hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Brad Selby, chief administrative officer of the department, helped ink the agreement, which they said provides for as many as 75 Chinese surgeons each year to undergo training in the department on the Health Sciences campus.

The USC administrators said that the agreement represents the fruition of three years of discussion – as part of a major effort to establish a strong USC presence in the eastern Pacific Rim medical community – between the department and top Chinese government representatives for medicine, science and technology.

Parekh said the relationship is a natural fit for the Chinese because USC already “has an excellent reputation in China and … Los Angeles has a large Chinese community and infrastructure.”

For USC, training China’s top surgeons, including senior faculty from the country’s major medical schools – who in turn will train countless others – positions the university as an influential collaborator.

“This puts us front and center with opinion leaders in China,” Parekh said.

He noted that USC will offer a structured training program that incorporates observation in the operating room at Keck Hospital of USC, online education, a skills lab and mentoring by USC faculty. The program has tremendous potential for growth, he added, saying that there are about 140,000 minimally invasive surgeons in China who could benefit from the program.

Calling USC a “gateway to the Pacific Rim,” Vaughn Starnes, chair of the Department of Surgery and surgeon-in-chief of the USC hospitals, lauded the program.

“I see this as a wonderful opportunity for the Department of Surgery and the Keck Medical Center of USC to help train Chinese surgeons in the most advanced surgical techniques, as well as showcase our world-class facilities, faculty and staff,” he said.

In addition to the training of Chinese physicians, the agreement calls for research collaborations, exchanges of faculty and collaboration on treating Chinese patients at USC, when appropriate, as well as offering second opinions via telemedicine to physicians and patients in China.

“China is going to become a huge medical market, and the number of patients coming to the U.S. for treatment will only increase,” Parekh said. In fact, USC is generating a lot of interest in China as a potential treatment destination because the university already is well known there.

Concurrently, Parekh noted, China’s rapidly growing economy is expected to spur medical entrepreneurship – the creation of new homegrown medical devices and technologies – and the Chinese “plan to invest more money into research and development.”

By partnering with the Chinese medical community now and building networks of relationships, USC stands to benefit in terms of research and business opportunities.

“As China opens up, other universities will want [to pursue similar relationships], but we’re getting in on the ground floor,” Parekh said.

Selby said the genesis of the partnership stems from a meeting of the China-based World Endoscopy Doctors Association (WEDA) Forum three years ago.

At the meeting, attended by about 1,000 surgeons from China and the surrounding region, China’s minister of health proposed that the country require and implement a new credentialing system for endoscopic surgeons.

The agreement was signed by Parekh and Yangde Zhang, president of WEDA, in the presence of government officials from the Chinese Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Parekh and Selby met with Jin Xiaoming, director-general of the Ministry of Science and Technology, and Huang Jiefu, vice minister of the Ministry of Health.

Under the agreement that USC signed with WEDA, individual Chinese medical schools will provide funding.

Because of USC’s reputation in China, officials there were receptive to the Keck School serving as a key training site.

Under the program, physicians from China will come to USC in groups of about four physicians and spend two to three weeks observing complex, minimally invasive surgeries. They also will practice in the surgical skills center, receive online training and meet with physicians and hospital staff to learn about credentialing and performing quality assurance, Parekh said.

He noted that the physicians coming to USC “are very skilled surgeons. We won’t teach them to do surgeries, but we will show them the state of the art and discuss how they can develop their own programs.”

The Department of Surgery will spearhead the program, but Parekh said that future plans include branching out to collaborate with other departments at the Keck School with expertise in minimally invasive surgery, as the program grows.

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