Learning from Peasants

“Tom…do you know Chairman Mao?” I look up across the table at my mentor Dr. He. This was about a week ago, right after I raised the idea of traveling down to rural China to observe—to experience—what was actually going on at a most local level.

I rolled my eyes. “Of course I know who Chairman Mao is.”

He grins. “You’re planning to do exactly what he did: going down to the countryside to learn from peasants.” Thus began my 4-day long trip to Yu’nan County TCM Hospital, a local hospital located a 3-hour bus ride away from Guangzhou, where I plan to carry out my project this summer.

Shadowed this doctor for about two days:

And then spent a day visiting a township health center and two village health stations:

This trip wasn’t part of the original plan but after spending two weeks in Sichuan and realizing how little I actually understood about the local situation, I wanted to go down there and see for myself what it was like before moving ahead with any project. What’s more, I wanted to take this very abstract project concept I had, go down to my partner hospital and get their input about how best to actually proceed. Mr. Liu, the project manager for the screening program last year, had pulled me aside this time and said, “In the past we’ve always created these project plans that looked beautiful on paper and asked hospitals to comply…only to find that we run into a lot of problems in the actual execution.” That’s what I wanted to avoid.

One thing I can say after returning from the trip: it was well worth it. Details of what I found will be included in a later post. But lastly, after my stay in Yu’nan I decided almost on a whim to stop off at Yun’an County People’s Hospital on the way home, whose doctors I had spent a good amount of time screening with last summer. (Don’t be fooled by the similar spelling, it’s located in a different town 1.5 hrs away). What was meant to be a stop-by-and-say-hi ended up finding another partner hospital eager to participate in the project.


PS. Here’s a great picture…this is why enforcement of a smoking ban in China fails so terribly:

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