Chinese-American diplomatic relations are alive as I accept an invitation to speak at the Daqing Eye Hospital’s 10th Anniversary celebration in the northeast Chinese province of Heilongjiang (close to 1000 miles northeast of Beijing). During this provincial eye symposium, I gave two presentations hosted for 180 Chinese, Russian, and US eye physicians. The opening ceremony booms with brass and drum bands, cannon salutes, and the flurry of a substantial number of pigeons released in celebration. During the two day eye meeting, I speak on “Advanced Technology IOLs” (the Crystalens HD and Restor 3.0 intraocular implants that restore a youthful, full- range of distance, intermediate, and near vision after cataract removal). My other topic reviews “Optos Retinal Scanning” and its value in patient education with case presentations. (The beauty of this diagnostic testing tool is that it offers a nearly full view of the retina without dilation and the inconvenience of a day of blurred vision.) With a population of 2 ½ million people and the world’s fourth most productive oil fields, the city of Daqing makes great strides in healthcare as well as industrialization.
Chinese Eye Care
The hospital administrator of Daqing Eye Hospital is a retired Army eye, ears, nose and throat physician (EENT); his daughter is a PhD student at ODU. Our group from America includes three Mandarin Chinese-speaking Americans who serve as interpreters and meeting participants. With an eye physician from St Louis’ Washington University, an engineering professor from ODU, and an intern from Georgetown University, I welcome help from the other Americans to interpret my slide presentations and assist my family and me through the course of day-to-day life in China.
In comparing eye care in China to that in America, similarities and disparities are both evident. Furthermore, traditional Chinese medicine remains an alternative for some Han Chinese people with its customary sessions and herbal remedies. As in America, the Chinese Resident Physicians are filled with enthusiasm and compassion for their patients and colleagues. In contrast, though, Chinese hospitals are dedicated solely to eyes (or orthopedics, or whatever other specialty), and cataract or refractive surgery is performed routinely as an in-patient operation (with the patient remaining in the hospital for several days). The patient’s families are invited to stay in the room with the patient. There are no appointments – just walk-ins. I notice the Chinese physicians have some technology the US FDA has yet to approve, however there is newer technology we use that they have chosen not to purchase. Despite these differences, I find a common denominator between Chinese and American physicians; both hold a passion for restoring sight in the community as both work to open an eye bank for corneal transplants in Daqing.
Our need to Go Green!
When my family and I arrive in the Beijing airport to smog limiting the view of the runway to 100 yards, the importance of going green becomes even more pressing. This is an intermittent phenomenon with the evening rain storms temporarily clearing the smog and providing variable visibility. One source I read stated that breathing the air of Beijing is equivalent to smoking 70 cigarettes a day! In fact, Beijing car drivers are not permitted to drive every day due to the widespread air pollution. (Bicycling is a common mode of transportation for many.) This industrial pollution leads to respiratory problems and significant health hazards. In contrast, the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north where grasslands and wetlands abound near Daqing is much cleaner. This stark difference in air quality is a constant reminder of what our future might hold if action is not taken now to decrease carbon emissions.
Traditional Chinese culture is fundamental to Chinese society. Many customary values are derived from Confucianism and the Chinese government emphasizes its culture to be a vital part of its national identity. I find traditional Chinese meals with vegetables to be served consistently three times daily. With nearly all of the meals served banquet or family style, I eat plenty of chicken, pork, beef, fish, vegetables, noodles, and rice (to “fill the corners” of my stomach). The lack of sugar in my diet allows me to lose four pounds! My nutritious intake only lasts eight days.
During departure time from Beijing, the world’s largest airport, promises are made for future visits this fall by Daqing’s Eye Hospital Director to Beach Eye Care in an effort to share vision care “pearls”. My intentions are to return to China to teach Intralasik all-laser vision correction as well as small incision cataract surgery with torsional phaco via the Infiniti system. Future connections from Virginia Beach to Daqing remain bright, alive, and well.
– Dr. Neatrour