Engaging with healthcare professionals in other countries represents an invaluable learning opportunity. My clinician colleagues in Nanjing helped me to appreciate the value of teamwork across cultures.
It’s 4 a.m. and the operating room is lit by the sterile glow of surgical lights. I’ve just completed a total arch replacement for a patient with acute Type A aortic dissection, a procedure that feels like a rite of passage. My badge reads “Attending,” a title I’m on the cusp of officially assuming at Johns Hopkins. Assisting me is the chief of cardiac surgery at Drum Tower Hospital in Nanjing, China. In the quiet of early morning, I’m reminded that medicine isn’t just about the technicalities; it’s about the people, the mentors, and the journey. Adding a layer of poignancy to my experience in China is the fact that attended high school just five blocks away from Drum Tower Hospital.
The OR: A dynamic learning environment
At Drum Hospital, I was involved in 20 challenging cardiac cases. I was reminded that every surgical move is a calculated decision and each suture a commitment to the patient’s life.
A dialogue across continents
Beyond the surgical suite, I engaged in academic discourse and gave two lectures. The first focused on the American medical education system and the second provided an overview of the cardiothoracic fellowship training in the U.S. My talks sparked rich dialogues that deepened our collective understanding of medical education and practice.
The power of teamwork
The opportunity for hands-on collaboration and skill transfer was invaluable. A particularly memorable encounter was a valve-sparing root replacement on a young patient. This complex surgery exemplified the power of teamwork, and each surgeon brought their unique skills and perspectives to the table.
When I returned to the U.S., I reflected on this multifaceted journey at Drum Tower Hospital and the Aortic Disease Forum. It was a rich tapestry of experiences that underscored the value of international collaboration in advancing medicine. I was also reminded of where I started and the road ahead. It was a personal homecoming, a poignant reminder of the distance I’ve traveled—both literally and metaphorically—from my high school days in Nanjing to my current role as a cardiac surgeon at Johns Hopkins.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.