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Vol 19, No. 07, July 2015   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
A Conversation with Dr. Junhui Bian Dean of Shantou University Medical College
Shantou University Medical College (SUMC) made the first debut as the Chaozhou Obstetrics Training School, 1924. When Shantou University was established in 1981 by Mr Lee Ka-shing, the medical school was founded as the medical college, and now it is known as SUMC. The medical school offers two medical programmes; English-taught and Mandarin MBBS programme. The medical programmes are approved by the Ministry of Education in China, and elite medical students enjoy full tuition grants. SUMC encourages in-house medical training and consulting work, and avoids test-orientated learning curriculum. Apart from clinical work, young medical students also participate in laboratory and field research projects. The following interview with Dr Bian was conducted on 23rd June 2015 by our editor, Yuhui Lin.

Lin: Tell us about Shantou University Medical College, what makes your medical school different from the rest?

Bian: At SUMC, we have more than 200 research and teaching faculties for 1,400 medical students. The curriculum is very different from traditional medical curriculum approach. At SUMC, it is physiological-based and this encourages the integration of medical knowledge, clinical reasoning and Problem-Based Learning (PBL). For example, our human structure course integrates human anatomy, embryology and diagnostic imaging. Our curriculum connects the dots whereby the concepts are linked to modern medical practices. The clinical skills training courses are intense and hands-on.Experience clinicians, often renowned in their expertise, guide medical students through four semesters. Students' performance are then assessed from Objectively Structured Clinical Examination. Students undergo clinical rotation through different departments in our teaching hospitals to acquire patient care competencies. By the time students graduate from SUMC, they are equipped with the experience and the knowledge to manage and treat diseases.

SUMC may not be the biggest or the oldest medical school in China, but we are more than a medical college. Our recruited students receive more ‘personalized’ academic attention, and often students have the opportunity to interact with distinguished international medical experts in our weekly seminars.

In 2014, SUMC received the first prize in the National Education Achievement Awards from the Ministry of Education, China. SUMC has invested a lot of energy and resources to making the pedagogy more student-centered and learner friendly. The professors and teaching staffs have catered the materials to not only facilitate the understanding of medical knowledge, but to also further motivate students’ interests in learning more than the learning materials provided. Students’ learning experience at SUMC includes learning on manikins, standardized patients, simulated and in-patient clinical scenarios.

Mr. Li Ka-shing, the founder of Shantou University, is a firm believer to providing good education, health and character-building in communities. SUMC students are committed to the public service, providing knowledge and skills to benefit local communities. For example, on weekends, a medical team consisting of 20 students and 10 clinical teachers would travel to neighbouring to identify and treat patients. They also provide eye checks and care for the elderly and patients at homes. The Li Ka Shing Foundation donates more than 2 million RMB per year to this program. Late-stage cancer patients are also receiving care from SUMC volunteers. This aid includes medical treatment to relieve the physical pain and to lighten the burden for the family. For children born with cleft palateΩ

, they receive care from SUMC volunteers and benefit from receiving quality re-constructive surgeries from experienced surgeons.

Lin: What are the attributes that are highly regarded as SUMC medical graduates?

Bian: SUMC medical graduates should be competent to providing safe and quality medical services to patients. We access our education outcomes from the following: (1) positive changes in knowledge, skills and attitudes of students; (2) positive impacts of these changes on patient care; 3) maximization of the degree and duration of the above. Nevertheless, they are nurtured and cultivated to make continuous improvements in the quality of work and in their life skills. We believe attitude or medical professionalism are the most critical attributes for life-long learning and self-improvement, and with the correct attitude most challenges can be conquered.

Lin: There has been an ongoing debate that medical doctors are not researchers for they are usually more concerned in the physiological outcomes than the molecular mechanisms. Would you like to talk about your views?

Bian: Yes, this is particularly true in China now, and should be a major concern in most medical schools. Medical schools should have the duty to produce the best physician scientists, too. Mainly, because we would like to see more novel research work that are translated to benefit patients. In the United States, it is common for medical graduates to pursue a PhD degree, and upon the completion of their doctorate research they are recognized as Clinician Scientists

. They are of great importance, and there are many renowned physician scientists in the world. New innovations may not have been possible without their medical experiencesł

. Hence, we are making efforts to provide medical students research opportunities and, hopefully, introducing a MBBS-PhD joint programme to our elite students in the near future.

Lin: Any plans for medical or health-related management & business courses?

Bian: We have a MPH programme for students to undertake public health and management courses, and some of our researchers have established connections and collaborative work with other universities; e.g. Imperial College London. We are considering to encourage medical students to attend business and management courses, in collaboration with other colleges at Shantou University.

Lin: Bursary or Scholarships or other funding sources for international students?

Bian: We have a handful of international students originating from Australia, Europe and the United States. They are self-funded for the college does not offer scholarships to international students.

Lin: As a Dean, what are the achievements you are proud of, and perhaps that makes you happy?

Bian: (Smiles) We are not the biggest medical college, or the oldest. Neither are we residing in an economically and politically attractive location. Shantou University, as established in year 1981, does not have a marathon track record of academic achievements or awards. However, SUMC serves a population of 25 million, providing quality educational and medical care opportunities in East Guangdong, China. I am glad to say that SUMC is leading the medical education reform efforts in China. Though SUMC and the students have made remarkable achievements in a relatively short timeframe, I am confident that more achievements will be added to the list.

SUMC is ranked among the top 8 in the student passing rate of National Medical Licensing Examinations. The English-based medical programme has required students to participate in the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1; an examination to assess the physicians’ knowledge, concepts and applications, and to demonstrate basic patients’ health care. The percentage of students who have passed the USMLE Step 1 is at 95% to 97%. This result shows that our teaching and guidance have been well-delivered to the medical students, and students are able to learn much better and achieve more than test-oriented curriculum.

About the Interviewee

Professor Junhui Bian

Dr. Junhui Bian graduated from the 8-year medical program at Peking Union Medical College in 1987 and worked as a researcher at Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. In 1988, he was admitted into the Ph.D program of University of Maryland School of Medicine on a full scholarship and was awarded the Ph.D degree in Biochemistry in 1993. Subsequently, he served as a postdoctoral fellow, assistant professor, associate professor and professor at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research (A Warner-Lambert Company, now Pfizer), Abilene Christian University, and Shantou University Medical College respectively. His research interests included mechanisms of intracellular transport, the expression and regulation of tumor suppressor genes. He and his colleagues have published in Science, Journal of Biological Chemistry, PNAS, Carcinogenesis, Oncogenes, Cellular and Molecular Biology and others.

Dr. Bian has served as the director of SUMC Center for Faculty Development since 2009 and the assistant dean since 2010. He was appointed as the executive dean at Shantou University Medical College in January of 2013.

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