Beijing — Arrival and first activities

We flew from Nanjing to Beijing two nights ago. Pleasant and uneventful flight. The new Beijing Airport is quite spectacular — huge and modern.

We are staying at the Guesthouse at Peking University — sort of like a nice dorm, actually several nice dorms. Nothing fancy, but very liveable.

Yesterday we saw the famous sights, including Tiananmen Square, Chairman Mao’s memorial, and the Forbidden City. The size and scale of everything is just massive. I am told that Beijing’s population is officially 13 million — plus another three to five million unofficially.

Everyone is friendly and there are Olympic signs and volunteers all over. There is lots of security around the venues — and (I am told) many fewer cars on the streets. The air quality is not too bad — but the Olympic officials are said to be having lots of meetings about it.

Today I woke up early and went for a long walk. Near the campus of Peking University (they continue to use the old name for the city) I found a very large park — and walked in it for a while. It was filled with lakes, trees and flowers — they are having their annual lotus festival.

Most of today was filled with official meetings. We visited with key health science officials of PKU (the abbreviation for Peking Univ), led by Professor Ke Yang, who is executive vice president of PKU and head of the health sciences center. She is an oncologist who spent 1985 to 1988 at the US National Cancer Institute. We talked about the fact that my wife, also an oncologist, was at the NCI during that same period.

We also visited with Professor Wang Shan, a surgeon who is president of People’s Hospital of PKU, and several others.

The key PKU partner who organized our visit is Dr.Gordon Liu, who was in Chapel Hill until 2006 as a faculty member of the UNC School of Pharmacy. He still maintains very close contact with UNC and is responsible in a major way for our work with PKU.

I sat next to Professor Ke at lunch and we compared notes about what it is like to run a very large academic health institution. I was really struck by how many similarities there are. We even exchanged ideas about dealing with faculty who are constantly asking for more space!

We toured the PKU Health Sciences Campus — it is very large and impressive.

President of Peking University, Dr. Xu, with Peter Coclanis, Tom Martineau and me.
Peking U

Next we went to Anzhen Hospital and the Beijing Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood Vessel Diseases. We were hosted by Professor Dong Zhao, who is deputy director of the institute. She is a cardiologist and a CV epidemiologist who has done very important work on risk factors for heart disease in China. She collaborates with Dr. Sid Smith of UNC’s Division of Cardiology.

She gave us a tour of their CV surgery hospital, especially their pediatric ward. We saw a number of children who were recovering from cardiac surgery or about to have it. They get children from many parts of China.

This has been a busy, full day — learning about health and health care in China, and especially about what UNC is doing and can do here.

Global health in China is a substantial opportunity for our increasingly global university. There are great resources here for research and teaching — for UNC faculty and students.

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