Week 4— Beijing is cooling down; My passion in Global Health is heating up

19 07 2010

It has been more than 4 weeks since I came to NCAIDS (National Center for AIDS Prevention and Control). Everyday I am assigned to some work that is part of an ongoing project of the office. Never have I had a chance to sit down and learn about AIDS in China in a rather slower manner. Well, I got my dream accomplished when Dr. Shu decided to give me a ALL DAY long lecture on the history of health care, health system, public health of China; the successes and failures of Chinese health care system; and what needs to be done in the long run! Of course it all started without my expectations, for the day.

Dr. Shu is 33 years old. He studied Medicine and Medication as undergraduate(trained doctor), then he worked in a hospital for a few years; studied Health Care System for his Masters and then Public Heath Policy and Management for his Ph.D. He worked in high HIV/AIDS prevalent places like Yunnan Province where most transmission was due to Injected Drug Use (IDU).  Apparently, he knows everything about health care/system in China.

9 am, Dr. Shu started with asking me what I wanted to do for my future. This question is always a tough one to answer, plus I was not expecting it. I said that I kind of want to do Public Health as he does, and that I want to get a Ph.D of some sort— I knew it was not a good answer. I sounded so careless and uncertain. But I could not think of a good answer at the spot! I mean I DO know that I want more education in this field after Duke. It all sounded better in my head, before it came out of my mouth.

Dr. Shu smiled and asked me what relevant courses I have taken in Global Health. I listed a few and explained what they were all about. He said that I did a good job by choosing all those classes that gave me a macro  glimpse of Global Health. From my work here in the office, I have already learned a lot about the history of HIV and relevant work done in the field, but overall, I am still far from well-informed about Chinese health care system and all that stuff. Dr. Shu knew what knowledge I lacked, in order to understand China’s health care system. P. R. China is a country built from the countryside, the peasants. So,  Dr. Shu started with 1920s, before the independence of P.R.China. He said that he was just going to give me snap shots of each moment, but oh  boy, his vivid descriptions of the moments made it feel like watching a movie. In the movie I saw my grandfather (my father’s father who died almost 20 years before I was born). Dr. Shu mentioned Barefoot Doctors and their role in health care. My grandfather WAS a renowned barefoot doctor! I had no idea that HE meant SO MUCH in the history of Chinese Health Care System! Later on Dr. Shu moved to Certified Village Doctors. I was like, WHAT? My uncle (my barefoot doctor grandfather’s oldest son, my father’s older brother) is a Certified Village Doctor! Knowing that my family was SO involved in building the history of Chinese public health system, Dr. Shu used my grandfather and uncle as examples to explain certain concepts to me. It felt so much fun to learn about my never-met grandfather and my uncle from a professional perspective. Then Dr. Shu moved to current time where my younger sister is involved in the health care system. Dr. Shu was as surprised as I was about learning that generations of my family are physically involved in health care system of China, even though I am ethnically Tibetan.

After lunch, Dr.Shu continued his lecture in the successes and failures of Chinese health care system. He gave specific examples of each in details, analyzed different perspectives, including cultural, social, economical and political. I listened with whole heart. Dr. Shu did not hesitate to point out all the negative sides of current Chinese health care system and what needs to be done. He said that personally he truly appreciates the international public health specialists trying to figure out the problems in China and giving suggestions, but after all, it is Chinese problems and the solutions need to be based on the Chinese societal status. Dr. Shu suggested that if I want to truly make a difference, regardless of where I want to make that change, I need to inform myself with ground level information as well as global perspectives in order to create a sustainable health care system.

When I looked at the time, it was already 5pm. I could not believe that Dr. Shu was willing to spend his entire day teaching me and guiding me. He looked at his watch and said: Oh well, I guess I will work all night long tonight then— Dr. Shu was supposed to go to Vienna for the 18th International AIDS Conference the next day!

Well, if family legacy is a privilege, I am definitely keeping this legacy. I am going to be a professional in Global Health/Public Health.

– Yuqian Liu

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