Stanford students share SCPKU graduate seminar experience

SCPKU sponsored a Stanford graduate seminar entitled “Chronic Disease in China: Health Care and Public Health Challenges” March 16 to April 3.  Taught by Stanford Professor Randall Stafford from the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, the seminar focused on analyzing the multiple factors leading to China’s increasing non-communicable disease (NCD) burden and implications for health care services and policies – both within China and globally. In addition to Professor Stafford and his Teaching Assistant, seven Stanford students participated in the seminar along with students from Peking University and Zhejiang University.   

Two Stanford participants share some of their seminar experiences below. Ben Seligman is in the School of Medicine pursuing his MD and PhD and Daisy Zheng is working on her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Content from the interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Qu: Why did you decide to apply for this SCPKU graduate seminar?

Ben:  The topic was relevant to my research interests and I am interested in doing more work involving China.

Daisy:  It aligned very well with my research and provided a chance for short-term study at a prestigious campus, Peking University. 


Qu: What did you hope to learn in China as part of the program and were your objectives met?

Ben:  I hoped to work on my Chinese, learn more about available datasets, and network with local faculty.  I would say I was mostly successful across the board.

Daisy:  I hoped to learn: 1) the differences in performing research abroad, 2) the difference between China’s healthcare system and that in other countries, and 3) the impact that environment has on quality of life in China.  What I found most surprising were the differences in male and female health factors in China (obesity and smoking), the issues with particular Chinese databases, and the categorization of disease treatment and diagnosis. 


Qu: Did the Chinese students from Peking University and Zhejiang University have an impact on your experience?

Ben:  Yes, having them present was a core part of what made the experience worthwhile.

Daisy:  Yes, I found working with them was most enlightening when discussing research habits.  The challenge was that the students were taking full loads at their universities while attending the seminar so they were extremely busy.  It would have been ideal to have Chinese students with lighter loads participating – perhaps students at the PhD level no longer taking classes or holding the seminar during the summer.


Qu: Was this your first time participating in an overseas course/field trip?  If not, please share some of the challenges that you may have encountered on your other trips and how you resolved them. 

Ben:    This was not my first trip.  Cross-cultural communication is always a challenge, particularly if the working language is English and many of the participants are not fluent.  Likewise, keeping on-schedule is a significant and important challenge.

Daisy:  No, I participated in a National Science Foundation International Research and Education in Engineering program in which I conducted research at Tsinghua University in Beijing.  The largest challenge was getting access to academic resources at Stanford.


Qu:  What are the first three words or thoughts that come to mind which best describe your experience at SCPKU?

Ben:  Exciting, informative and fun

Daisy: Fun, enlightening, bonding


Qu: Do you have future plans to travel to China? 

Ben:  I hope to return to SCPKU as a pre-doc fellow.  Longer-term, I hope to do some of my epidemiological and demographic research in China, building partly off of the contacts I have made.

Daisy: I would love to be able to go back and study air quality conditions in Beijing.