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Chinese Medical Students Attend NECO for Global Health Leadership Development

Medical students from Wenzhou Medical University visit New England College of Optometry to gain deeper understanding of community health care

New England College of Optometry values partnerships and collaboration to promote better understanding of eye care and vision health both locally and internationally. One way in which NECO nurtures this collaboration is through the College’s relationship with Wenzhou Medical University (WMU) in Wenzhou, China. Wenzhou has been a leader in optometric education in China, developing the first medically-based optometry program within China’s medical education system.

For over 30 years, NECO has been affiliated with Wenzhou, allowing both students and faculties from the two institutions to interact with, collaborate and learn from one another. This includes a joint MS OD degree program between Wenzhou and NECO in which optometry/ophthalmology students from WMU come to NECO to study for two years to obtain an OD degree on top of their masters and MD degrees in China. In addition, NECO students in their fourth year rotations can opt to complete one rotation at Wenzhou Medical University. Approximately 6 students from NECO participate annually. NECO faculty travel to Wenzhou Medical University also periodically to teach there. Annually Dr. Guang Ji Wang (graduate of the AODP program at NECO and faculty at NECO), who founded the relationship between Wenzhou and NECO, travels to Wenzhou as an advisor for NECO and Wenzhou jointly.

This summer marked the beginning of a new program for both NECO and Wenzhou called the Global Health Leadership Development program. From July 13-24, 2015, New England College of Optometry is hosting eight medical students from Wenzhou in Boston. Students will learn about various topics related to healthcare in the US and around the world including research, technology, optometry in other countries, and blindness. Students will observe specialty clinics in New England Eye’s Network and at other optometry practices to compare and contrast modalities of optometry. After spending two weeks at NECO, the student group will travel to SUNY College of Optometry for an additional two weeks of study. At SUNY, the emphasis of the program will be on career and leadership development, central to the students’ learning in order to coalesce the program experience into practice once the students return to China.

The goal of this two-week program is for the students to gain a deeper understanding of health care concerns within the context of cultural, social, economic and public health issues. During their time in Boston, the students will attend lectures and seminars at NECO and conduct observations and tours at various health institutions in Boston including community health centers, private clinics and research facilities. Students will tour Harvard University, MIT, Polymer Technology, Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston, Perkins School for the Blind, NECO research labs, Schepens Institute. They will receive lectures about community health care, health care and insurance, understanding visual impairment, and vision loss. They will also be parted of simulated patient care sessions, present a scientific poster detailing research findings, and visit community health centers in the Boston area. As a result, the students will gain a deeper understanding of community health care and how optometry interfaces as a profession with other related health professions, public health policy and also specialty services provided within the profession.

This is the first year of what Wenzhou and NECO hope will continue yearly for next eight to ten years. Participants in this year’s program were chosen for their academic excellence, demonstrated leadership skills, and interest in developing an appreciation for health and vision care issues in the United States. The students will return to Wenzhou Medical School with a better understanding of public health issues and leadership skills and ready to participate as future leaders to help shape change in China’s health care system.

Global Health Leadership Conference