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After reading an article about the myriad problems facing China’s health system, I asked the doctors in my medical English class to briefly reflect on the system based on their own ideas and opinions. Of the 17, 15 doctors wrote that China’s system faced serious challenges. The following are excerpts from their papers that I think accurately reflect the challenges currently facing China’s health. I have not fact checked them, and in some cases I’m fairly certain they aren’t accurate, but that the doctors believe these statistics is revealing. This one echoed many of the main points of the other doctors. “For patients, medical services are too expensive. It is said that the average cost is about 500 yuan for a common cold in a […]


I work in a large hospital, and sometimes there are “unfavorable outcomes”, which in hospital-speak translates as a death or life changing mistake. When we have an unfavorable outcome families typically gather in front of the administration offices and battle with the hospital’s security guards (we have a whole police office). These skirmishes have become increasingly common in China, and I’ve written about such an instance before (A fight at the hospital – Abortion in China), but it is a topic that deserves further discussion. Let’s start with a recent example; a patient committed suicide by jumping out of his hospital room window as a result of being dissatisfied with his treatment, either because his disease was incurable, the pain was intolerable, or the bill was […]


Today I wanted to bring you something unique. This is from a diary written by a missionary who arrived in Nanjing at the end of Imperial China, and was integral in spreading western medicine in Eastern China.  I hope you’ll enjoy this moment from the past and reflect on how much China has and hasn’t changed. August 1st, 1891 – One amusing experience was a call to the Fanti’s Yamen to treat a man who had cut his arm and fainted from loss of blood. The Fanti is the treasurer and is a high official. The present one being a relative of the Emperor. A yamen is a palace which in Chinese style is composed of many rooms only one story high, separated by courts […]


As one of the very few expat bloggers working in a Chinese hospital I feel it is my responsibility to share some tips on going to the ER in China, as well as a bonus helping of awful hospital experiences. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use these. Bring someone with you Chinese hospitals are not designed for the patient’s convenience, so even if you have excellent language skills, odds are that you will need someone to assist you while you are there. For foreign teachers I would strongly recommend bringing a co-worker or someone from the foreign affairs office since they will generally be able to use the school’s clout on your behalf. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I saw a doctor, and then […]


If you are new to Traditional Chinese Medicine I suggest reading my other posts on the topic first (1, 2, 3, 4) For many Westerners “Traditional Chinese Medicine” brings to mind an image something like this However this is not what TCM looks like in most of China. At the hospital where I work there is a TCM department, their patients are mostly elderly and have been referred for pain management, not yin and yang disharmony. TCM is shifting from local practitioners who collected their own herbs to massive TCM pharmaceutical companies, the entire system is changing. I thought today we should wrap up our look at TCM by discussing its possible future. Medications It may surprise many of my western readers to learn that […]


“In Guangxi we eat everything with 4 legs but tables and chairs, everything in the ocean but submarines, and anything in the sky but airplanes,” a giddy student told me when I asked about local dishes. It turned out that this was much closer to the truth than I had imagined at the time. In my four years here in China, I have been introduced to a variety of foods: roast dog, snake soup, chicken ovaries, duck stomach, goose intestines, a variety of fowl flippers, and pig arteries, brain, and even urethra (my previous post on dog meat). I’ve seen so many animals served up that I doubt that there is even a Chinese word for kosher. Behind many of these strange dishes are concepts […]


When I tell other foreigners that I am working in a Chinese hospital, the conversation often takes a quick detour to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Often they tell me that TCM is a much healthier choice, the evil of big pharmaceutical companies, and how thousands of years of practice have made TCM more effective. There is a lot here to unpack. Today though we’ll just be building a basic understanding of some of the concepts central to TCM. Bear with me, understanding TCM is essential for understanding how Chinese culture views intricate systems, not just the physical body. Modern TCM generally traces itself back to a book from the 1st century BC called “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Cannon.” This led Chinese medicine from focusing on […]


A few months ago my friend told me that she had a small tumor. The doctor said that it was benign and she could either have it removed with an operation, or try to reduce its size using Chinese medicine. She opted for the Chinese medicine. 3x’s a day for months she drank the thick brown bitter liquid which was distilled from bear bile, birds nests and shark fins. Now I try to keep an open mind about alternative medicine, and I think there are many things in Chinese medicine that have promise for medical applications, this however doesn’t seem to be one of those times. For four months my co-worker wasted her money on this concoction with no results. The sad thing is I […]


I was chatting with a friend the other day and realized that a few things. 1) I have a lot of strange conversations about random things, and 2) you might enjoy hearing about them.  So you can expect “conversations” to become regular a feature on the blog. I was just chatting with a German friend who had the chance to help perform a surgery in one of the hospitals a few days ago. Yes, you read that right. It sounds pretty crazy, but at least she is a med student. The surgery itself went fairly well, it was a hemi-colectomy and they removed a good-sized tumor successfully, so you can breathe a bit easier. What was interesting about the conversation was all of the little […]


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