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Fogarty Fellows in the Field

May - June, 2008  |  Volume 7, Issue 3

It isn't often that research faculty, visiting fellows or trainees are called upon to use their knowledge and get their hands dirty in immediate life-or-death medical services.

Before the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province, all but one of the Harvard-affiliated, Fogarty-sponsored fellows in China "were focused on their own projects, which had nothing to do with disasters," says Dr. Yu Xin, Fogarty's primary foreign collaborator and director of the Beijing Institute for Mental Health.

Only Dr. Ma Hong, who was part of the Harvard program and is chief of mental health for China's Center for Disease Control, specifically had worked in the area -- training child psychiatrists to deal with young disaster victims.

Other current and former fellows in mental health at the Harvard Department of Social Medicine, a Fogarty partner, were mobilized in Shanghai and Beijing.

two Chinese male volunteers make a victory sign while a young girl poses with them. A sign with Chinese writing is in the background.
Whether "rabbit ears" or "victory," these local
volunteers working under Fogarty fellows give a
child a smile.

Ma, along with Drs. Bin Xie, Liu Jin, Ming Li, He Yangling and Cheng Wenhong participated in writing "The Training Book for Post-disaster Crisis Intervention," sent to local public health authorities of every province and to mental health institutions.

Qui Jianying helped translate a psychological first aid field manual into Chinese to help on-site experts and volunteers. Xie, Qiu and Chen Jue collaborated with the Shanghai Institute of Health Promotion to produce a handbook, "100 Frequently Asked Questions after an Earthquake Disaster" for use in Sichuan.

In a country with a desperate shortage of child psychiatrists, Cheng went immediately from Shanghai to Sichuan and began working with children, as did Fogarty fellows Xue Haibo and Xu Yong.

As head of the Ministry of Health's psychosocial intervention first-aid team, Ma, who had just returned from two months of advanced training at Harvard, designed and organized an urgent educational program in the neighboring province of Wuhan.

He Yangling and Xu Yifeng were among the trainers. Ma also organized two groups of psychiatrists brought in from six different provinces to provide emergency services in the hard-hit cities of Chengdu and Mianyang, where she set up aid stations staffed by more than 200 volunteers in various refugee camps.

Dr. Li Jin, who studied in the United States last year under the Rochester program, was in Chengdu and already involved in recruiting those at risk of suicide. Now she hopes to research the relationship between suicidal behavior and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Dr. Yuan Yanbo, a former Fogarty fellow, went to Chengdu with 40 psychiatrists and nurses from Beijing to work with hospitalized patients. Dr. Jiang Ronghuan, who was just back from Harvard this year, helped translate papers and consulted with children from Sichuan who were brought to Beijing. She also was involved in the treatment of 91 injured patients transferred from Sichuan to Beijing. 

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