Category Archives: Global Health

Trujillo and Cuzco

Yesterday we had another full day in Trujillo.

In the morning, Doug Morgan, Luis Diaz and I met with the student leaders of the UNT (National University of Trujillo) School of Medicine. In UNC terms, it was like meeting with the leadership of the Whitehead Medical Society, our student association.

They are an obviously bright and very motivated group of young physicians-to-be. They had planned the medical student congress that was to have been in Trujillo this week, which was unfortunately postponed due to H1N1 flu concerns. It turns out the congress is now going to occur in November. They invited us to come back then, but I'm not sure we all can.

In mid-day, Doug gave a talk to a packed auditorium at the main teaching hospital about his work on gastric cancer in Latin America. He gave it in fluent Spanish but the combination of the very helpful slides and a number of similar words I was able to follow it pretty well.

In the afternoon we visited another archeological site near Trujillo this one is the Temple of the Moon. It is an incredible pyramid site, with very impressive stone work and painted designs.

Last evening we flew to Lima and over-nighted there.

This morning, first thing, we flew to Cuzco. It was the capital of the Inca Empire, and is a major tourist attraction. We spent all of this afternoon visiting various sites around Cuzco and thoroughly enjoyed it all.

But Cuzco is at more than 10,000 feet elevation and I have the constant feeling of lightheadedness and shortness of breath. I've medicated myself some and now feel better.

On one of the stops this afternoon we walked up a long path to see an archeological site and I had to stop several times. I thought I was in pretty good physical shape but the UNC Wellness Center and Cuzco are quite different!

This combination of global health partnership and now a little vacation is really pleasant. It is especially nice that Will is able to join me in all of this.

Greetings from Trujillo, Peru

Last evening we left RDU, and flew overnight to Lima, Peru, via Miami.

This is another in a series of trips I have taken in support of UNC's global health work. In 2007, I went to South Africa and Malawi. And in 2008, I took separate trips to Nicaragua and to China.

This year's trip is to Peru, with Dr. Luis Diaz, the chair of dermatology at UNC, who is from Trujillo, Peru, and with Dr. Doug Morgan, a UNC gastroenterologist, who has spent years researching GI cancers in Latin America.

Dr. Roper with students in Trujillo, Peru

Today we saw a bit of Lima, including a magnificent museum of Peruvian artifacts both pre-Columbian and post-Columbian. Several of the beautiful items we saw have been featured in an article in National Geographic.

Late this afternoon we flew to Trujillo, a city of about two million in the north of Peru. We were greeted at the airport by a very enthusiastic crowd of medical students, from UNT, the National University of Trujillo. Dr. Diaz has managed bi-directional exchanges of medical students and faculty from UNT and UNC for many years.

Tomorrow I am to meet with the dean of the UNT School of Medicine and see their teaching hospital. I am to give a talk on how we at UNC are preparing for influenza H1N1, which is a major topic of interest here. Doug Morgan is also giving a talk about his work in GI cancer.

As was the case in the trips in 2007 and 2008, my son Will Roper is with me. He is going to visit a rural health clinic tomorrow, and also will see several units at the teaching hospital.

This visit promises to be very worthwhile and surely memorable. It again highlights the value of UNC's focus on global health it enables us to do collaborative work that is valuable both to the citizens of other nations and to the people of North Carolina.

PUMC, FHI, Project HOPE and Gates Foundation

Over the past two days, we had very good meetings with several institutions —

I visited with Dr. Depei Liu, the president of Peking Union Medical College. He is also president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. In U.S. terms, that would be like his being head of one of our top health science centers, and also director of the NIH! We had very wide-ranging conversations about how we might partner, including the possibility of student and faculty exchanges.

PUMC’s headquarters is in beautiful old buildings, which are surrounded by soaring, modern skyscrapers.

Meeting with Prof. Depei Liu, the president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Peking Union Medical College.
roper, chinese academy medical colleges

We met with Feng Cheng, the country director for Family Health International, which is headquartered in RTP. They are focused on HIV/AIDS work particularly.

And we met with the Beijing staff of Project HOPE, which is chaired by Dr. Charles Sanders. He also chairs the UNC Health Care Board. They are working on diabetes education for physicians and other professionals, and earthquake relief.

I also spoke with Ray Yip, who is country director in China for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Ray and I worked together at the CDC in the early 1990s. He traveled with me to China in 1992, and has worked over the past 11 years in China — for UNICEF, the U.S. CDC, and now Gates.

We were to have met in person, but Bill Gates came to town and that understandably took priority for Ray.

UNC alum and his family in Beijing.

Visit with PKU leadership and then gymnastics final

This morning we met with Professor Min Weifang, the chairman of the University Council of Peking University. Under the Chinese system of university governance, he is the party chairman, and, as such, he is the highest ranking official at PKU. Even the university president reports to him.

Prof. Min has his doctorate from Stanford, and he is an urbane, polished leader. He has been involved with UNC for some time — and he visited Chapel Hill about a year ago. Chancellor Moeser and he met several times.

He talked about PKU and their vision for the future, especially as it relates to international partnerships with other universities.

I was impressed with many things about him, but especially about the depth of his knowledge of U.S. higher education. For example, he talked about the role of “the three universities” in the development of Research Triangle Park and the wider economic development of the Triangle. Then he enumerated them, “UNC, North Carolina State University, and …” When he paused, I filled in the blank with “that other university nearby.” He said he has recently met with Duke President Richard Broadhead.

We talked about the health sciences at UNC and at PKU, and their plans for the future. I had met with Prof. Ke, the EVP for health sciences a few days ago, and Prof. Min said he knows that heads of medical schools are very powerful and always get their way within a university. I laughed and said that is not always true at UNC, but maybe it is often true.

There will be a joint UNC-PKU conference in Beijing in November, which will feature a number of senior UNC leaders. It will offer additional opportunities to explore partnerships with PKU, the top ranked Chinese institution of higher education.

Meeting with Prof. Min Weifang, the chairman of the University Council of PKU.

Following our meeting, we headed off to the Olympics.

Today we saw the finals of men’s team gymnastics.

It was the first time I have ever seen gymnastics in person. I’ve watched it on TV often but it was really great to be there. It is amazing the feats of strength, balance, and coordination!

We saw a vigorous competition — and ultimately the medal ceremony. China won the gold, Japan the silver, and the USA the bronze medal.

FDA, Women’s Basketball, Church and UNC Alumni

Yesterday Peter Coclanis, Tom Martineau and I had lunch with Dr. Yan Jiangying (or Jenny Yan, to use her “English name”).

She is a senior official of the State Food and Drug Administration for China. She is a pediatrician and she was a Fogarty Fellow at UNC with Dr. Gail Henderson in 2005.

We went to a very nice restaurant which has recreated the elegant old style of entertaining. It was a very pleasant meal, made all the more so by Dr. Yan’s recounting of her very positive memories of her year in Chapel Hill.

We discussed future possibilities for partnerships between the SFDA and UNC.

Dr. Jenny Yan from the SFDA.
bill and jenny

Last evening we went to see the USA women’s basketball team play the Czech Republic. In addition to Peter, Tom and Will, Mark Little joined us. He is Provost Bernadette Gray-Little’s son. Mark has spent the past year in Beijing as a Luce Fellow, teaching environmental science at PKU.

The USA team was slow to get started, but after Candace Parker went in they caught up and really blew the other team away. The final score was 97-57. At the end I was yelling “we want biscuits,” but I am not sure the local crowd got the point.

This morning I went to church at the Beijing International Christian Fellowship. It is a large congregation, planted in 1980. It began with British and American Embassy expatriates. They have grown to be now several congregations — meeting in multiple locations with services in several languages in addition to English and Chinese.

I went to the main location and the 9:30 a.m. service had perhaps 1000 people — seated in a modern theatre-style auditorium located in an office building.

The 90-minute service contained both English and Chinese songs, with the words projected on an overhead screen. The sermon was in English, with simultaneous translation available in Chinese. The relatively informal service reminded me of the Chapel Hill Bible Church.

Current government regulations mean that BCIF (and other churches like it) are open to foreign photo ID holders only. I had to show my passport to get in.

By the way, last Sunday I went to church in Shanghai at a Chinese church. The service I attended was entirely in Chinese. I was able to sing the hymns, though, as they were familiar tunes — including “Blessed Assurance.” My English blended right in with the hundreds of Chinese-singing worshipers.

We had a very nice luncheon today with several UNC alums who live here in Beijing. Elyse Ribbons, ’03, organized it. We ate at a great French restaurant and had a very good brunch. I confess that after a week and a half of wonderful Chinese food, I really enjoyed bacon, eggs, rolls, and crepes for dessert.

Tonight we are going to men’s basketball — USA vs. China. It should be a real show! Everyone here is excited about the game. It is like UNC vs. Duke back home. Only here I am cheering for the team led by Coach K!

President Bush at the USA-China men’s basketball game.

Quintiles, Tsinghua University and the Opening Ceremony

We had an amazing day on Friday, August 8 —

It began with an early morning meeting at the office and lab of Quintiles here in Beijing.

Quintiles was founded by Dennis Gillings when he was a UNC School of Public Health faculty member. It is now the largest contract research organization in the world, with people and facilities around the globe, and is based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Dennis and his wife, Joan, have also endowed the UNC School of Public Health and dramatically enhanced the School's capabilities — especially in global health.

Peter Coclanis, associate provost for international affairs, Tom Martineau and I met with Lai-Lee Tan, the head of the China office; Claire Tan, director of biostatistics; and Susan Sun, the lab manager.


We learned about their extensive clinical trials work in China and other countries of this region. What they showed us was really impressive — and we surely appreciated their coming into the office to host us on this day, August 8, 2008, which was a national holiday in China and the opening day for the Olympic Games.

Then we went to Tsinghua University, which is located right next to the campus of Peking University where we are staying. Tsinghua has a long tradition of excellence in science and engineering, and is sometimes described as the MIT of China. It and PKU are rivals for being seen as the top ranked university in the country — and the parallels to the MIT – Harvard relationship are evident.

Tsinghua now has a business school, law school and medical school. We met with Professor Chen Jining, the executive vice president of TU. With him were Xia Guangzhi, the deputy director of the office of international cooperation and exchange, and Dr. Fang-Lin Sun, head of research for their medical school.

We had wide ranging conversations about the opportunities for partnership and exchange between UNC and Tsinghua University. They already have relationships with several U.S. universities and seemed quite interested in exploring faculty and student interactions with us. We will be organizing a follow-up meeting right away.

Topics of interest include information science, nanoscience, environmental science and many areas of medicine.

Then last evening we went to the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Will and I were guests of Lenovo, the Beijing-based computer and information technology company.

Will and me at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics.
Will and me at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics.

Lenovo has its U.S. operations headquartered in Research Triangle Park, N.C. They bought the IBM personal computer operations there a few years ago. I met the Chairman of Lenovo with Chancellor Moeser several months ago.

It would take me hours to write an adequate description of what we saw. But I have a few observations:

The Olympic Stadium and other facilities are magnificent.

The artistic performance in the Opening Ceremony was like the grandest Super Bowl halftime show — times ten!

The athletes — all 10,000 of them — were fun and lively, but there were so many of them!!!

The Chinese people are hugely proud to be hosting the Games.

A runner bringing the flame in to light the big torch at the end of the Opening Ceremony.
Torch Runner

Opening Ceremony performance — a large globe that came up from the floor of the stadium.

We got back to our lodging at around 2 a.m. — a very full and rewarding day!