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February 2008 Issue

Liwei Xu, MD, observes Ahmad Hamidinia, MD, administering a pain medication injection after surgery. Xu was the part of a urology resident exchange program founded by Hamidinia.
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Surgeon Works to Improve China's Health Care System by Recruiting Chinese Physicians to Train at UC

By Amanda Harper
Published February 2008

UC surgeon Ahmad Hamidinia, MD, is on a mission to improve the health care system in some parts of China, a country of 1.3 billion people that has surprisingly limited access to advanced medical treatment. 

The UC professor of surgery recently completed his seventh self-funded trip to China, where he teaches urologists how to perform minimally invasive kidney procedures, provides updates on new advances in urology and helps develop teaching curriculums for residency programs.

“The Chinese medical system
is lagging compared with U.S. medical standards,” Hamidinia explains. “This results in less-than-ideal medical care and causes patients unnecessary pain and complications.

“My goal is to go into small Chinese cities and teach the locals how to more effectively use their resources and provide better care for their patients,” he adds.

For example, kidney stone disease is very prevalent in China, but unlike in the United States, many Chinese patients with this disease often end up having a kidney removed because physicians are unable to perform the advanced surgery required to treat the problem.

Hamidinia is working closely with Chinese urologists and hospitals in two different universities to change the way surgery is taught and practiced so it more closely matches American standards. The message “then gets around through traveling urologists,” he says.

In addition to teaching his Chinese colleagues how to improvise and overcome the challenges of limited resources, Hamidinia wants to bring China up to speed on prostate cancer diagnosis and public education.

“There is a misperception that Chinese men do not get prostate cancer,” he explains. “But the reality is that Chinese men are diagnosed with very late-stage disease because screening tests are not encouraged or available in most hospitals.”

To help facilitate cross-continent training, Hamidinia recently established a urology education fund at UC.

Essentially a urology resident exchange program, the fund allows Hamidinia to bring a Chinese
urologist to the UC Academic Health Center for one month each year to observe American medical practices.

He will also take a UC urology resident to China with him each year to help train local urologists.

There have been several urologists from China who visited University Hospital under his supervision but Liwei Xu, MD, who arrived in early December and stayed through January, was the first Chinese urology fellow to visit UC as part of this program.

“I believe the American medical system is the most excellent system in the world,” says Xu, who is a first-year urological fellow at the Medical College of Zhejiang University.

“In China, we don’t have advanced technologies like robotic surgery systems or minimally invasive surgical instruments, so this is a great learning opportunity for me.”

Xu expects to glean information that can be incorporated into a more comprehensive surgical education curriculum at his home institution.

“There is no basic training curriculum for residents in China or national board examination to certify doctors,” he explains. “After medical school, you are certified by the hospital where you work. If you want to move on, you must be recertified and specialized training is not available.”

UC fourth-year urology resident Torre Rhoades, MD, will accompany Hamidinia to China in April 2008 as part of this exchange

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