Good science transcends culture, language and distance, as it did during this fall’s annual UMHS-PUHSC Joint Institute Symposium, drawing the largest-ever delegation of China’s top physician scientists to the University of Michigan.
In all, 75 PUHSC faculty members made the 14-hour journey from Beijing for the Oct. 12-14 meeting, the largest single delegation of visiting scholars ever hosted by the University of Michigan Medical School. In
six short years since its launch, the UMHS-PUHSC JI has grown to include more than 30 ongoing research projects, each led by a PI from both institutions, across a number of fields, including liver, pulmonary,
renal, cardiovascular and other diseases.
“It is unusual to have people from such different cultures, with different languages, different approaches, and different ways of working, to partner with each other. What we are doing together is remarkable,” said Joseph C. Kolars, the Josiah Macy, Jr. Professor of Health Professions Education and Senior Associate Dean for Education and Global Initiatives.
Traveling with this year’s delegation was new PUHSC President Qimin Zhan, MD, whose keynote speech early on the symposium’s first day introduced a topic – Precision Medicine – that would be thematic throughout the three-day event, the subject of panel discussions, leadership meetings and brainstorm sessions about future JI paths and projects. All three JI Symposium panels were dedicated to precision medicine, including the current challenges and future consequences, and JI leaders held a special meeting focused on how to bolster collaboration between the two institutions in this area.
The Symposium is also an opportunity for JI researchers to provide updates on ongoing projects and launch new collaborations. Among the Chinese doctors who traveled to Ann Arbor for the event was Yuwu Jiang, MD, PhD. A pediatrician at PUHSC, Dr. Jiang is partnering with U-M Pharmacology Professor Lori Isom, PhD, on a joint study to better understand genetic causes of epilepsy in children. The two met at an international pediatrics conference last year and began planning their joint research project, among eight new studies to be funded this year through the JI. The opportunity to meet again in person at the symposium will accelerate their work, Jiang said.
“This was my first opportunity to visit Lori’s lab, meet her team and see how it runs,” he said. “You have to meet face to face to understand one another more precisely. Collaborating always just by telephone or email isn’t enough.”
The annual event alternates each year between the U.S. and China and has grown each year as new partnerships are forged and new projects developed. Next year’s meeting will be in Beijing.
“This is an important partnership, and we enjoyed every second of our visit to Ann Arbor,” PUHSC President Zhan said at the close of the final session. “We look forward to hosting an even larger delegation next year.”