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The International Scholars Training Program launched at Methodist Hospital to educate physicians on heart failure, but quickly expanded to other areas of expertise. “If you build it,” says Dr. I-wen Wang, “they will come.”
It started as a niche, a very specific niche – teaching physicians and surgeons from China the advanced management of heart failure patients using left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).
IU Health Methodist Hospital welcomed that first group of scholars in January of 2014 – one cardiologist, one cardiac surgeon, and one ICU nurse manager.
“China is in a unique position in that they have a large, growing heart failure population like the U.S.,” says I-wen Wang, M.D., Ph.D., a Methodist cardiovascular surgeon specializing in thoracic and transplant surgery. “But they have a very limited number of donors for heart transplant and do not yet have LVADs.”
China is a country with 1.4 billion people, roughly four times the population of the U.S. – yet they perform just 350 heart transplants a year, nearly less than one tenth of heart transplants in the U.S., says Dr. Wang.
“Our goal, initially, was to provide a way for us to help educate them on the management of LVAD with a goal of preparing major hospitals to become clinical trial sites,” says Dr. Wang.
But that goal soon expanded: impact the quality of health care delivery beyond U.S. borders to IU Health standards of excellence.
Since that first group came to Methodist in 2014, the IU Health International Scholars Program has trained 58 scholars, as of the end of 2017. It is on target to train 20 more this year.
The program’s reach has grown to other countries – and other specialties. Scholars are being trained in orthopedics, interventional radiology, gastrointestinal, pediatric oncology, neurology, emergency medicine, ICU, nursing and more.
They are flying with Indiana Donor Network for organ procurement. They are traveling with Lifeline to bring ECMO patients from other hospitals to Methodist. They are shadowing physicians at other IU Health locations -- Riley Hospital for Children, IU Health Saxony Hospital and others.
“It has really diversified from just this very narrow niche we started,” says Dr. Wang.
And it’s grown organically. Word of mouth. Reputation. IU Health has a great program.
“It’s the field of dreams,” says Dr. Wang. “If you build it, they will come.”
While being trained, the scholars spend anywhere from one month up to a year for training, says Amy Hoene, director of cardiovascular services at Methodist, who oversees the program she helped to launch with Dr. Wang.
They come to observe in all areas -- operating room, clinic, rounding, ICU, animal labs and participate in basic science/translational research, as well.
Beyond the knowledge the people being trained at IU Health receive, they go back and quickly rise inside their hospitals. They are getting promoted and being recognized for their knowledge, expertise and great work – bridging IU Health to the leaders and future leaders of health care in China.
“It certainly establishes our brand,” says Dr. Wang. “They go back and that translates to, ‘We should send other people.’ We’ve been able to create the IU Health brand there that wasn’t there before.”
Inside Methodist, a group of scholars sit talking with Hoene and Dr. Wang about this program that brought them to the United States.
Amy Liu is a cardiac anesthesiologist who has been doing research at the Krannert Institute of Cardiology.
Yang Yang is a cardiac surgeon training at Methodist and doing research. He is also married to Liu; the two came as a team.
“I’ve learned best concepts from my mentors here,” Dr. Yang says. “I’ve done several experiments that I’m very interested in and I can’t do that in our hospitals. It is so exciting.”
Dexi Yan just graduated from medical school and is applying to be a resident in cardiac surgery in the U.S. He is here to visit for two months doing observation.
“I am reaching out for opportunity to observe more, get clinic experience,” he says. “To see how you guys practice here, how you treat patients, how you communicate with the patients.”
Wei Yang came to train at Methodist in interventional neuroradiology. “I’ve learned a lot from the advances here,” he says.
But more is gained beyond the medical expertise, says Hoene.
“These working relationships develop between the scholars and those at IU Health,” she says. “quickly grow to lasting friendships.”
-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Benbow via email email@example.com or on Twitter @danabenbow.