October 26, 2007

Initiative set to improve health care in China

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Dan Roden, M.D., left, and Daniel Masys, M.D., are leading a multi-center study of how electronic medical records systems can be used for large-scale genetic research. (photo by Neil Brake)

Initiative set to improve health care in China

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has signed on to a statewide initiative to help improve health care delivery in rural China.

Under the terms of a letter of agreement signed last week during Gov. Phil Bredesen's trade mission to China, six Tennessee universities and research centers will develop annual summer “institutes” for Chinese health care providers on health care finance, management and leadership, and specialty training.

While details remain to be worked out, current plans call for 20 to 40 Chinese health professionals to begin training next summer at an intensive one-week course at the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health, led by David Osborn, Ph.D., executive director of the Health Care Solutions Group in Nashville.

Further training will be provided in rural health care economics and management at the University of Memphis, and in leadership and evidence-based practice at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). The University of Tennessee, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Meharry Medical College also will be involved in the institutes.

The initiative was developed by Tennessee health care leaders including Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, and Randy Wykoff, M.D., dean of the ETSU College of Public and Allied Health.

Vermund, Osborn and Kenneth Holroyd, M.D., M.B.A., assistant vice chancellor for Research at Vanderbilt, were among more than 100 Tennessee business leaders, government officials and health experts who participated in the governor's trade mission, which ended Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Hong Kong.

Tennessee ranks sixth in the United States in its annual exports to China, with $1.8 billion in cotton, soybeans, transportation equipment, industrial machinery, chemicals, rubber and scrap shipped last year, said Matt Kisber, Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development.

Earlier this year, while planning the trade mission to increase economic opportunities in China, Bredesen asked academic leaders from across the state to help him develop a “currency of friendship that transcends business,” Kisber said.

Because of Tennessee's expertise in health care finance and management, Vermund, Wykoff and their colleagues decided that a training initiative would be most helpful to the Chinese, who currently are revitalizing their rural health care system.

“Tennessee is in a good position to help, given some of the state's innovative approaches to our own rural health care delivery challenges,” said Vermund, who, like Wykoff, is a pediatrician with a master's degree in public health and tropical medicine.

“This is an extremely important opportunity for the Tennessee universities involved in health professional education to share with, and learn from, our Chinese colleagues,” added Wykoff, former senior vice president for International Operations at Project HOPE.

Kisber agreed. “We could envision down the road having programs where Tennessee and Chinese health care leaders roundtable and dialogue about practices and initiatives … really learning from each other,” he said.