OGDEN, Utah – Three Chinese professors are spending fall semester at Weber State University learning how to establish the first respiratory therapy program in northwest China.
Zhou Xiao Lan, Xue Ying Li and Li Ping came to WSU after being selected by the Xi'an Medical College in China's Shaanxi province to help implement a college curriculum that will produce the first respiratory therapists in northwest China. Respiratory therapists evaluate, treat and care for patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders; the profession, however, doesn't exist in that area of China.
"This is a great development for both universities, the profession and our academic department," said Lisa Trujillo, director of clinical education in the Department of Respiratory Therapy at WSU.
The partnership between the Chinese and Utah schools has been in the works for four years. In October 2004, Trujillo traveled to China with other faculty members from WSU's Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions. While the other faculty members were pairing up with Chinese counterparts to observe the country's health care system, Trujillo had to mix and match her time between doctors and nurses because she couldn't find anyone who specifically worked with patients with pulmonary problems.
After a return trip in May 2005 resulted in a similar experience, Trujillo realized that China may not have respiratory therapists, which motivated her to introduce the practice to the country.
With the help of a friend from China who works at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Trujillo found a Chinese university and its local hospital that were interested in knowing more about respiratory therapy and how it works in the U.S. healthcare system. In May 2007, Trujillo and her colleague, Janelle Gardiner, a respiratory therapy instructor at WSU, traveled to Xi'an City to present a six-day lecture series to approximately 50 doctors and 30 nurses on the clinical applications of respiratory care and the need for respiratory therapists.
"After the presentation, the hospital came up to us and offered us more than what their doctors make, if we would stay there for a year and implement a respiratory therapy department," Trujillo said. "It opened their eyes to what they have been missing."
That meeting led to the visit of the vice president of Xi'an Medical College to Weber State University last fall, where the two universities signed a collaboration agreement promising help to establish the first academic program of its kind in China.
Zhou, Xue and Li are the first faculty members from their university to travel abroad on university business. They were selected because of their ability to speak English and their expertise in the medical field.
While at WSU, they will shadow students at clinical assignments, as well as monitor class and laboratory sessions to gain an understanding of the profession, since none of them have ever practiced respiratory therapy in their medical careers. They also will lecture in WSU courses, presenting information on Chinese culture and giving insight on the country's medical system.
Zhou said she looks forward to learning from WSU's faculty. "I am eager to learn respiratory therapy to serve our college and our area's people," she said. "Weber State University is very excellent, especially the faculty. They help us prepare all things."
That enthusiasm isn't lost on the WSU faculty. "I'm so glad they're here for the entire semester, because they will pick up so much," Gardiner said. "They're ambitious and ready to learn."
Zhou, Xue and Li arrived in Ogden on Aug. 5 and will return to China on Dec. 25. They hope to have the program ready for student enrollment in the fall of 2009.
"It's really rewarding to see all of this coming to fruition," said Trujillo, who is planning on returning to China next summer with Gardiner to help with any last-minute details in the new program. "I'm glad our time there has resulted in something so positive."
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