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First Cohort of Hopkins and Tsinghua DrPH Collaboration

Ji, Zhang, Lin, WangMembers of the first cohort of the Hopkins-Tsinghua DrPH collaboration: Jiafu Ji, Kun Zhang, Linda Lin, and Xin Wang.

Meet the Changemakers

Chinese students in the first cohort of the Health Policy and Management DrPH program have big aspirations. Earning an advanced degree isn’t enough—they want to enact nationwide health care reform in their country.

Developed in collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing, the program is a mesh of online and face-to-face lectures taught by Bloomberg School faculty. For two weeks each year, during the first three years of the five-year program, the 31-student cohort comes to Baltimore for intensive study with faculty. Eight hours a day, six days a week.

The group, which was here for their first intensive session in late January, comprises professionals from all over China working in different sectors of health care from clinical to administration, IT to PR. There is a 30-year age difference from the oldest to the youngest member and all are in various stages of their careers.

Cohort member Xin Wang, MD, the CEO of the Shanghai East International Medical Center, has worked in hospital development for the last 15 years. She is also the General Secretary of the Chinese Disease and Medicine Association, which has more than 500 member hospitals across the nation. She’s at a point when some might be considering retirement instead of a DrPH, but Wang’s love of learning and desire to elevate the hospital to be one of the best in the country inspired her to apply. “I want to learn from the best in the world,” she says.

She’s already incorporating skills from the program, using strategic planning in hospital assessments and discussing what she’s learned with her employees. “You pay one tuition and everyone gets the education,” she jokes.

Like Wang, most of the students hope the degree will not only advance their own knowledge and professional standing, but also help them to reform health care in China where innovation has lagged despite rapid development in other sectors.

“I believe this collaboration is a breakthrough for China’s public health education,” says Xue Lei, PhD, MS, executive associate dean of Tsinghua Institute for Hospital Management who oversees the degree program in China.

“For the past decade, China is economically and physically moving faster [but] the health care system faces a lot of problems,” says Jiafu Ji, MD, PhD, president and chief of the Surgical Department of Peking University Cancer Hospital and Institute in Beijing. An experienced surgeon, Ji faces the daily strain of shouldering administrative and management tasks on top of his clinical duties. He hopes the degree will bolster his management skills and empower him to establish new protocols for other physicians.

Most leadership in Chinese health care has this medical background. “There is a lack of professional, executive training in these areas,” says another cohort member, Kun Zhang, MSc, IT general manager at China Resources Healthcare Group Ltd. in Beijing. “A part of our mission is to bring global standards into China to set goals and help the local people to [advance] their abilities,” Zhang says.

Rui (Perry) Pang, MBA, the director of Media and Operations at Lepu Medical Group, a medical device sales company in Beijing, sees another critical need for reform: mending tense relationships between patients and doctors. “From the Chinese tradition, we think the patient should be helped unconditionally,” he explains. This leads to mistrust when doctors attempt costly procedures that may not be successful. “Sometimes the patient doesn’t know or understand why the prices are so high or why they can’t be cured. They blame the doctors.” The tension can be seen in publicized cases of violent, sometimes fatal, attacks on health care personnel by patients in recent years.

Pang sees communication as key and hopes the DrPH degree will equip him with skills to lead public relations campaigns to educate patients. “You can’t just address [health care] from a medical point of view, you have to use a more systemic and comprehensive way,” he says. “It’s our responsibility to reach out to people and educate them instead of just hoping that someday people understand the medical system.”

Linda Lin, Jiafu Ji, Rui PangLinda Lin, MS, General Manager, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Shanghai (left) applied for the program because of the School’s mission of protecting health and saving lives—millions at a time: “It made me feel like I could contribute and really help.” Peer cohort members Jiafu Ji (center) and Kun Zhang (right) also hope to contribute to widescale reform.

Seeking solutions for tangible gaps in the system like these are exactly why the students applied to the first DrPH program in China. “By focusing on health care leadership and management, the Program aims at improving China’s health care delivery at both the system and organization levels,” says Leiyu Shi, DrPH, MBA, the director of the Tsinghua program at the Bloomberg School. “We expect our graduates to exert immediate impact on China’s healthcare reform and bring innovations to healthcare delivery and management.”

A second cohort will launch this fall with a third planned for 2018.

- Lindsay Smith Rogers

About the DrPH Program