Category Archives: Roper in China

Caring for patients in the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center

Our hearts go out to the patients and families of the horrific incident at the ConAgra plant in Garner.

Several hospitals in our area received patients from this tragedy, including our own Rex Healthcare. But those with the most critical injuries came to UNC, where the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center is the largest in the region. Some of these patients will surely require months spent in our burn center, and possibly years of follow-up care.

The families of our patients, like those from other tragedies and traumas, will have a difficult fight, also. Even in the best of times these injuries would be life-altering; in the financial straits in which the country and our state finds itself, they are sure to be doubly so.

UNC has experienced these tragedies numerous times the Kinston explosion in 2003, the crash at Pope Air Force Base in 1994 and the Hamlet chicken processing plant fire in 1991. It is in crises like this one that people are made aware of the burn center, but it is important to know that, according to national data, the average survivor with burns on 50 percent of his body stays in a burn unit almost 58 days, with a mean cost of around $447,000.

The center has 21 ICU beds, making it one of the largest in the country, and there is never a lack of patients to fill each bed.

Dr. Bruce Cairns, director of the burn center and associate professor in the Department of Surgery, very aptly says there is no such thing as a minor burn. Even relatively small burns require special acute care, and lengthy follow up.

Dr. Cairns, the resident physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists and myriad other staff members of our burn center continually perform with at the highest level of professionalism, and I thank them for it. They take very seriously the NC Jaycee Burn Center's mission to support the entire state, and the region, and they show that time and again not only with the excellent inpatient and clinical care they provide, but also with educational outreach programs throughout the state, and they make all of us at UNC proud to work here.

We wish our patients and their families well, and we pledge, as we do for everyone we care for, our commitment to providing them the best care possible.

You can receive updates by following the UNC Health Care News Twitter feed, and this video is an update of the patients and an explanation of burn care by Dr. Cairns and nurse manager Grace Schmits.

A China Reflection on UNC

I’ve been back from China for four days — and my sleep and wake patterns are almost adjusted.

Several people have asked me what my “greatest memory” or “most striking impression” of the China trip is. This morning, I answered that question this way — the remarkable speed with which they do things. Their sheer capacity for concerted effort allows them to do things in unbelievable time frames.

We are now on a path to build a new hospital bed tower at UNC — something we badly need to have in place now, if not yesterday. It will allow us to serve our very large current and rapidly growing demands for services by patients across North Carolina and beyond.

It will likely take us four years or so to get this project done and that is both optimistic and very frustrating.

But I told someone today that I think my new friends in China would be able to do it in about four months. Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Yes, I know that there are good things about our deliberative processes of oversight and governance — but the breathtaking pace of things in China should push us, too!

Biking to the Great Wall

On our last full day in China, Will and I took a 50-mile bike ride — and again saw the Great Wall. It was a spectacularly beautiful day — clear, sunny, about 80 degrees. Will was a good sport about it, indulging my biking habit, and we really had fun. We saw a lot of the countryside — farms and small villages.

Our trip to China has been wonderful. It has taught us a lot about this huge country, which is so old, and so new, at the same time. UNC is already doing a lot in China, in global health and other areas. The potential is for much, much more.

And the Beijing Olympics were just fabulous!

Will and me having just biked to the Great Wall, 50 miles round trip!
roper and will biking

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.


We have just been to the most amazing sporting event I have ever seen (with the exception of the Men’s Basketball National Championship in St. Louis in 2005).

This morning we went to swimming finals. We saw lots of great events, and a number of new world records were set.

The high point, though, was seeing Michael Phelps. He won the gold in the 200 fly, and the U.S. team, of which he was the first leg, won the gold in the 4×200 free. It was wonderful getting to stand and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” twice!

As of right now, Phelps has won five gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, which, when added to his six from Sydney, means that he has won more gold medals than anyone else in history! And he is not done yet. He is predicted to win three more while here.

It turns out that his mother was sitting just a few rows away from us, and we got to see her reaction to all of this, and see him throw his bouquets of roses up to her in the stands.


The USA men’s 4×200 free relay team with their gold medals.
mens 4x200

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.

Beach volleyball and swimming

Today was a fun day — just Olympics.

In the morning we went to beach volleyball and saw several matches.

The best was between the Chinese and Belgian women. The China team won but it was a closely fought game (19-21, 21-18, 15-13).

Tonight we went to the “Water Cube” (the natatorium) and saw great swimming. We saw a new world’s record set in the women’s 200 freestyle, and Michael Phelps set a new Olympic record in the men’s 200 fly.

The facilities for the Olympics here are just magnificent — and the hospitality we are receiving from the Chinese people is really heart-warming. I often have noticed people looking intently at me on the street — staring really — and I have taken to waving and smiling at them — and they just beam back at me. Tom has taught me to say — “knee how,” which means hello — and they love it when I try to say it to them.

This trip is really a joy — and an opportunity to learn and build relationships for UNC.

Will holding a real Olympic torch.
Will torch