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Thomas Boat, MD

Thomas Boat, MD
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Publish Date: 05/02/13
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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College of Medicine Exploring Partnership in China

The main campus of Chongqing Medical University (CQMU) in China features a 66-foot statue of the late Communist Party leader Mao Zedong, whose famous quotations include, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The UC College of Medicine has taken its initial steps toward a partnership with Chongqing Medical University, one that could culminate in construction of a joint international medical school based in Chongqing—some of whose students would spend at least one year studying on the UC medical campus.

Thomas Boat, MD, dean of the UC College of Medicine and UC vice president for health affairs, first spoke publicly of the partnership last fall, when he briefed UC’s Board of Trustees on it and mentioned it in his progress update for the College of Medicine in Kresge Auditorium. Earlier this month, he laid out details of the proposal in two town hall meetings on the medical campus.

The idea, he told participants in the meetings, grew out of a long-standing relationship between Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital in Chongqing. The possibility of joint programs was broached by officials at Chongqing Medical University.

"The idea would be to create on their medical campus a unique international college of medicine that would be set up more on a Western curriculum tradition and that would be able to attract students from all over Asia and the rest of the world,” Boat said.

The new college of medicine, which would cost between $100 million and $150 million to build and staff, according to Boat, would be linked to Phase II of the partnership. Phase I, he said, would involve creating and implementing a jointly sponsored curriculum for one or more master’s degrees in health sciences.

Some of the cost would be borne by government entities in China, Boat said, but major philanthropic support will be needed. A major donor with ties to UC and China has been identified, and talks will continue. Industry partnerships for research will also be explored.

The Phase I partnership could begin as soon as fall of 2013, Boat said, with the first students from China arriving on the UC medical campus a year later. The UC Board of Trustees has given the go-ahead to proceed with Phase I, said Boat, who earlier this year visited Chongqing along with UC President Santa Ono, PhD, for talks with CQMU and municipal officials.

Chongqing (formerly known in the West as Chungking) is a major city in southern China and one of four direct-controlled municipalities in China, with a status equal to that of a province (the others are Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin). Its total population is about 33 million spread over an area of about 32,000 square miles (about the size of Maine). The population of the urbanized area is about 7 million.

Chongqing Medical University, founded in 1956, features an integrated educational system of bachelor’s, master’s, PhD/MD and postdoctoral programs. Its 19 colleges and departments have a total enrollment of 26,200 students, with 5,457 faculty members. In 2011, it was ranked third among medical universities and ninth among 610 general universities in China.

"It’s one of the best schools and medical centers in the country,” Boat said, noting its numerous affiliated hospitals and access to research facilities. With medical treatment in China concentrated in hospitals rather than smaller practice facilities, Boat said, opportunities for clinical trials are enhanced.

"Their universities are communities,” he added. "People live there, they go to school there, their recreational facilities are there. All of the faculty and all of the students are housed on campus—they’re pretty much self contained.”

Boat noted that UC faculty members could go to China with no more than a two- or three-week time commitment, because courses are taught—in English—in intensive blocks.

Under the proposed Phase I joint master’s program in clinical medicine, students would spend the first year at the international college of medicine, occupying renovated space on the main campus of Chongqing Medical University in downtown’s Yuzhong district. In the second year, up to 10 students would come to the UC medical campus for specialty rotations and selected course work. (More than 10 initially, Boat said, would strain clinical learning opportunities needed by current students in Cincinnati.)

The students would spend two semesters at UC, paying what out-of-state students currently pay). Room and board would be separate. Their degree would be a certificate, Boat said, which would be useful for demonstrating U.S. educational experience.

Also under discussion for Phase I, Boat said, is a three-year program in clinical medicine and public health under the UC Department of Environmental Health’s Master’s in Public Health program. Students would spend their second and third years at UC and would earn a UC Master’s in Public Health (MPH) degree.

Boat added that other Phase I programs could be developed with the cooperation of the colleges of nursing, pharmacy and allied health sciences, with a research emphasis for the second and third years. Such plans are tentative at this time, he said. 

Phase I could begin as soon as fall 2013, Boat said, but a tight time frame might push it back to fall 2014.

Phase II would involve developing a business plan for fundraising, construction, staffing and launch of a full-scale international college of medicine, to be built on Chongqing Medical University’s Jingyun campus about half an hour by bus from Yuzhong. It would be close to a new teaching hospital in addition to existing schools of medicine, nursing and pharmacy. Phase II would include translational research facilities to promote joint clinical research efforts of the Cincinnati and Chongqing campuses.

"The new college of medicine would have its own core faculty, with teaching needs supplemented by our faculty and the Chongqing Medical University faculty,” Boat said.

The college’s organizational structure would have a dean reporting to an executive management committee comprising representatives from the UC College of Medicine and Chongqing Medical University, Boat said. The dean would be a Chinese national with considerable experience in the U.S. medical system, he added.

Boat said he will continue to seek input from faculty and staff about the proposal, and is particularly pleased that so many UC College of Medicine faculty have expressed a high level of interest and eagerness to participate in this joint international effort.

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