The International Scholars Training Program launched at Methodist Hospital to educate physicians on heart failure, but quickly expanded to other areas of expertise. “If you build it,” says Dr. I-Wen Wang, “they will come.”
It started as a niche, a very specific niche – teaching physicians and surgeons from China the advanced management of heart failure patients using left ventricular assist devices (LVADs).
IU Health Methodist Hospital welcomed that first group of scholars in January of 2014 — cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and an ICU nurse manager.
“China is in a unique position in that they have a large, growing heart failure population like the U.S.,” says I-Wen Wang, M.D., a Methodist cardiovascular surgeon specializing in thoracic and transplant surgery. “But they do not have LVAD.”
China is a country with 1.4 billion people, roughly four times the population of the U.S. – yet they perform just 350 heart transplants a year, less than a third of heart transplants in the U.S., says Dr. Wang.
“Our goal, initially, was to provide a way for us to help educate them on the management of LVAD with a goal of preparing major hospitals to become clinical trial sites,” says Dr. Wang.
But that goal soon expanded.
Since that first group came to Methodist in 2014, the IU Health International Scholars Program has trained 58 scholars, as of the end of 2017.
It is on target to train 20 more this year.
The program’s reach has grown to other countries – and other specialties. Scholars are being trained in orthopedics, interventional radiology, gastrointestinal, pediatric oncology, neurology, emergency medicine, ICU, nursing and more.
They are flying with LifeLine for organ procurement. They are shadowing physicians at other IU Health locations — Riley Hospital for Children, IU Health Saxony Hospital and others.
“It has really diversified from just this very narrow niche we started,” says Dr. Wang.
And it’s grown organically. Word of mouth. Reputation. IU Health has a great program.
“It’s the field of dreams,” says Dr. Wang. “If you build it, they will come.”
While being trained, the scholars spend anywhere from one month up to a year for training, says Amy Hoene, director of cardiovascular services at Methodist, who oversees the program she helped launch with Dr. Wang.
They come to observe in all areas, operating room, clinic, rounding, ICU, animal labs and more.
The people being trained at IU Health go back and quickly rise inside their hospitals, getting promoted and being recognized for their knowledge, expertise and great work.
“It certainly establishes our brand,” says Dr. Wang. “They go back and that translates to, ‘Maybe we should send other people.’ We’ve been able to create the IU Health brand there that wasn’t there before.”
Inside Methodist, a group of scholars sit talking with Hoene and Dr. Wang about this program that brought them to the United States.
Amy Liu is a cardiac anesthesiologist who has been doing research at the Krannert Institute of Cardiology.
Yang Yang is a cardiac surgeon training at Methodist and doing research. He is also married to Liu; the two came as a team.
“I’ve learned best concepts from my mentors,” Dr. Yang says. “I’ve done several pig experiments. I’m very interested in that. I can’t do that in our hospitals. It is so exciting.”
Yan just graduated from medical school and is applying to be a resident in cardiac surgery in the U.S. He is here to visit for two months doing observation.
“I am reaching out for opportunity to observe more, get clinic experience,” he says. “To see how you guys practice here, how you treat patients, how you communicate with the patients.”
Wi Yang came to train at Methodist in interventional neuroradiology. “I’ve learned a lot,” he says.
But more is gained beyond the medical expertise, says Hoene.
“These relationships develop between the scholars and those at IU Health,” she says. “These unplanned friendships develop that end up lasting.”
— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Benbow via email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danabenbow