Photo: Amanda Johnston

On November 17, McGill University’s Department of Family Medicine signed an agreement with the Zhengzhou University School of Medicine and Zhengzhou Central Hospital in order to provide training for general practitioners in the coming year. The training will be completed in two ways, with a cohort of Chinese doctors coming to Montreal for an intensive two-week course (joining teachers from Beijing with whom a contract was signed in September of this year) and a potential additional group of Chinese GPs in Henan province receiving training via a 12-month distance blended education program. “We hope that by sharing our experiences and expertise, it can inspire and help shape primary care in China.” says Dr. Howard Bergman, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at McGill about the training courses. “It’s not that McGill is any smarter than Zhengzhou, we just happen to have been doing it for longer.”

Co-hosting the delegation from Zhengzhou was the People Inspired by Norman Bethune group. This Montreal-based organization has been organizing knowledge and personnel exchanges between China and Canada in various medical fields. In recent years, seeing that China began to deepen a reform of its health care system, shifting from major hospitals to a community-based medical service emphasizing family physicians, the group began telling Chinese officials about Canada’s decades-long experience in training highly qualified family physicians.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Ms. Ding Fan, one of the leaders of the Zhengzhou Central Hospital, with whom the People Inspired by Norman Bethune have been working with since 2014, noted that this cooperation has yielded fruitful results over the past few years, including increased exchanges with Canadian experts and professors. Associate Dean of the Academy of Medical Science in Zhengzhou University, Zhang Yuan, said that the health care reform currently taking place in China along with the establishment of a hierarchical medical treatment system present both opportunities and challenges. The School is among the first wave of pilot programs approved by the Chinese government and now, through this agreement with McGill, they have enhanced their confidence of success and plan to eventually establish their own Department of Family Medicine.

Dr. Bergman presided over the signing ceremony and was joined by Dr. Samuel Benaroya, Associate Vice-Principal and Vice-Dean (Health Affairs) at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine Vice Minister Xing Wenjian, Consul General of the Chinese Consulate in Montreal, also spoke briefly at the ceremony, congratulating both sides on signing the agreement and thanking McGill for its support of the significant reform being undertaken by China of its health care system.

This agreement builds on the one McGill’s Department of Family Medicine signed with Shenzhen Association of Community Health for the 12 month distance blended education program in July 2016, for a program that began in January 2017. This program, now in its last month, has been well received by students and professors alike. The companion one-week Enrichment Program will see 2 McGill Family Medicine professors go to Shenzhen this December to work with the 31 participants of the 12-month program for workshops, simulation and critical observation activities. The same program offered to a cohort of students in São Paulo began in October 2017. Given the success of these international projects, the Department of Family Medicine has plans to launch a distance blended learning faculty development curriculum for its own clinician-teachers at McGill who are spread across the various clinical sites in the province.


November 29, 2017