Skip to main content

Education Norman Bethune’s legacy endures as Canadian, Chinese medical schools partner up

The Minto Sports Complex, home of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men's hockey team, is shown in Ottawa on Monday, March 3, 2014.

Patrick Doyle/THE CANADIAN PRESS

He died nearly 75 years ago, but Norman Bethune is still influencing the relationship between the country of his birth and the country of his death.

The legacy of the doctor who treated the sick in remote areas of China helped the University of Ottawa win a partnership between the faculty of medicine's training program and Shanghai's Jiao Tong University, said Jacques Bradwejn, the dean of medicine.

"They told us they have an affinity to the Canadian system, there is an attachment historically to Canada through Norman Bethune," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

The partnership is not affected by scrutiny over how China has been clamping down on protests in Hong Kong, Dr. Bradwejn said. Schools of medicine can overcome issues that divide political opinions.

"It is the nature of faculties of medicine at universities to do good and to serve," he said. "What we are doing with Jiao Tong, which has a strong intent to serve the people, will eventually improve social accountability in China."

It is the first time a Chinese medical school has adopted a North American medical education model, but Canadian researchers also expect benefits from the joint program.

One of the first areas for the collaboration will be to train doctors in family medicine who can help patients navigate a complicated health system that favours those with resources and connections to access the help they need.

"In the rapidly developing urban cities of China, they have gone super-specialized with very modern hospitals, very well-equipped. But primary care has not been developed," Dr. Bradwejn said.

A patient with a stomach ache may have to find liver, pancreatic or kidney specialists. "You go from one to the other and you have to find the problem yourself," said Daniel Figeys, a researcher at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in proteomics and systems biology, who conducts post-genomic research connected to large-scale changes in protein networks in human diseases.

Dr. Figeys has been travelling to China on research trips for nearly a decade and his contacts made the agreement possible, Dr. Bradwejn said. "By the time we went, he had already been there 25 times."

Story continues below advertisement

Over the past year, the two faculties have begun a number of research projects, including an initative to bring medical education strategies such as simulations to Chinese medical students.

Canada also can learn from China's health care. This month, Dr. Bradwejn is part of a delegation from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's office.

While complex to access, China's hospitals are extremely efficient and the university hopes to find lessons they can bring to Canada's strained hospitals. And for a researcher, the sheer number of patients who go through China's hospitals and the advanced technology available make possible research that would be difficult in Canada, Dr. Figeys said.

The first class of students in the family residence program will start in 2016, with some students beginning classes, taught by professors from the University of Ottawa and Jiao Tong School of Medicine, next fall. Rather than the six- or seven-year degree that is standard in China now, the program will offer a four-year degree.

"Our approach is not to go China and see how it could be beneficial for us," Dr. Bradwejn said, "but to go to China and invest so that we are both equal and stronger."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter