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Annual Cabot-Zhang lecture reflects on U.S.–China healthcare collaborations

| Staff Writer

(Jamie Nicholson | Student Life)

Washington University’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy hosted three expert panelists, including former Missouri Governor Bob Holden, in an event entitled “Building the Future of Innovative Healthcare” on Jan. 30. 

The panelists spoke about current challenges in global healthcare, the state of health systems in China and the U.S., and the importance of fostering innovative collaborations between medical communities in both nations. 

The event, which took place in Hillman Hall, served as this year’s annual Cabot Corporation–Xinsheng Zhang Endowed Lectureship, a series devoted to the discussion of U.S.–China relations and global leadership issues. Tao Ju, professor of Computer Science and Engineering at WashU, moderated the panel.

“Today’s health care systems around the world are facing various challenges — growing aging populations, impacts from climate change, pricing and healthcare costs, stress from infectious diseases — and so it’s important for them to build ties and collaborations,” Ju said. 

In addition to Governor Holden, featured panelists at the event included the Director of Partnerships & Strategy for Tsinghua University Medicine, Zhi Min Sim, and the Executive Director of the U.S. Heartland China Association (USHCA), Min Fan. 

Sim spoke about the structure and strengths of the Chinese healthcare system. He also discussed Tsinghua University Medicine’s ongoing partnerships with U.S. institutions of higher education and the university’s larger goals in healthcare advancement. 

He described the university’s mission to create “an advanced, mature healthcare system where there is a strong academic research culture.” 

Governor Holden and Min Fan discussed the mission, work, and goals of the USHCA, an organization the panelists jointly lead. 

USHCA is a non-profit that aims to promote positive relationships and partnerships in areas like education and business between China and the Heartland Region, which encompasses 20 states across the central United States. 

“We believe fundamentally that a community that’s globally connected does better,” Min Fan said. 

Dr. Mark Huffman, Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of WashU’s Global Health Center, said he enjoyed learning about the USHCA’s work and hearing about Sim’s interests in collaborative research. 

“I think it’s good to be able to think about mechanisms by which we might have some collaborations,” Huffman said. “But it’s a challenging time for us.” 

Guy Genin, a Mechanical Engineering Professor at both WashU and Tsinghua University, said he particularly enjoyed the panelists’ discussion on the role of governments in healthcare. 

 “This concept of, what is the role of government in healthcare versus private finance is fascinating,” Genin said. “Where does the government fit in? What do you do to extend healthcare to people who don’t have funds for it?”

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