December 8, 2023

'Grateful for this experience': Visiting students close out research training program

Six visiting medical students from China are the most recent to complete an extensive research training program at Michigan Medicine.

Xiangya student group photo
Xiangya School of Medicine students with their faculty mentors and program leaders. The students spent the last two years in Ann Arbor learning research skills.

The students, all in the last stages of their 6-year MD program at Central South University’s Xiangya School of Medicine, have spent the last two years in Ann Arbor working alongside UMMS mentors. Their experience culminated Dec. 1 in a final presentation of their research before an audience of mentors and peers.

“These two years have been very important, personally and professionally. In China, science and research are becoming more important for physicians,” said Yaozhong Liu. “Most of my friends in China don’t have this opportunity, so I am very grateful for this experience.”

Liu conducted work on the causes and potential treatments for abdominal aortic aneurisms in the lab of Eugen Chen, MD, PhD, Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and a leader of the partnership with the Xiangya School of Medicine.

“Almost ten years ago when this program began, I had to call many faculty colleagues to help place the students in labs,” Chen said. “Now, thanks to the hard work of so many students, this program enjoys a very positive reputation. Finding mentors is no longer a problem, because it is widely known how dedicated these students are. We’ve built a very successful collaboration.”

Yaozhong Liu presenting
Yaozhong Liu delivers his final research project presentation on experimental new treatments for abdominal aortic aneurisms.

Since 2014, more than 70 Xiangya medical students have visited UMMS for extended research training. Most stay for two years, although a handful of students participate in a longer, five-year program to earn a PhD. All return to China to complete their MD program and enter the workforce as trained physician scientists.

“Our students are the heart of this collaboration. This partnership provides a unique platform for them to grow academically and professionally, and engage in intellectual discourse that transcends borders,” said Xuejun Li, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurosurgery, Vice Dean for Education, and Director of the International Cooperation and Exchange Office at the Xiangya School of Medicine, who joined the presentations virtually.

“This program, and the interaction between our institutions, lays the groundwork for a future in which medical education and research thrive,” he said. Li was part of a Central South University delegation to visit U-M earlier this year to celebrate the success of the research training partnership and explore other collaborations. Joseph Kolars, who directs both Global REACH as well as the U-M Center for Global Health Equity, also visited the CSU campus in Changsha this year.

“I continue to be so inspired by the work that you are doing, especially knowing what it takes to come here to Michigan and do something different—a different look at science and research, in a different culture and new language,” Kolars told the students at the Dec. 1 event. “You are ambassadors for this important partnership, and the key to its continued success.”