Ryan A. Leonard

Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities

20092010 Forum on Connections

Ryan A. Leonard

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

College '10

Investigating China's Medical Machine: The Working Life of Chinese Physicians

China is now the world’s largest source of both patients and physicians. Yet today, several factors make the experience of being a physician in the mainland markedly different from the physician experience elsewhere, even from neighboring regions of Hong Kong and Taiwan. The CCP-regulated authority structure of Chinese hospitals and government-regulated practice of traditional Chinese medicine are some of these differences. Furthermore, the political, legal, and socioeconomic conditions under which Chinese doctors practice are highly volatile. Academic physicians find themselves in an environment not conducive to academic research, despite the ubiquity of street banners that urge the promotion of science. At the same time, many see the meteoric growth of China's economy as an opportunity for the government to improve research conditions for physician scientists and rectify health inequities in the general population. Physicians at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, a tertiary medical facility in southern China, have a strong desire to relieve the collective suffering of the Chinese people. This deep patriotism--frequently supplemented with research experience in the United States and Europe--stands in sharp contrast with China's fragmented health care system.