August 29, 2016

Dr. Fetters heads to China for cross-cultural Fulbright work

An interview with Dr. Michael Fetters on his recent Fulbright achievement and plans for research, teaching, and collaboration at Peking University Health Science Center.

Less than 24 hours before he departed for Beijing, Michael D. Fetters, M.D., M.P.H., M.A., professor, shared his thoughts on his upcoming appointment as Fulbright Distinguished Chair of Social Sciences at Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC). Here are the highlights from my interview with him:

How does it feel to be the first U-M Medical School faculty in almost two decades to receive the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar award?

As a family physician and research methodologist in mixed methods research, I am very honored to receive this special Fulbright Award in the Social Sciences. I am especially grateful for the supportive and collegial environment that all my colleagues at U-M, in Family Medicine, the medical school, hospital, and beyond have created that can allow faculty to pursue and succeed in unique scholarly activities. Successfully receiving this award speaks as a testament to the multitude of opportunities to U-M faculty.

I believe that the award also reflects recognition of the potential and imperative for mixed methods research to greatly enhance the work of social, behavioral, and health scientists around the world. This is particularly gratifying given the recent launch of the Michigan Mixed Methods Research and Scholarship Program (M3RSP) by the Department of Family Medicine, and in collaboration with U-M's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and several groups on campus, which I have the honor of co-directing with John W. Creswell, Ph.D., adjunct professor. I cannot say enough about how much Professor Creswell brings to U-M, and the support he has given to me. 

What impact do you hope this achievement has?

image of Dr. Michael Fetters and members of the Noguchi Medical Research Institute in Japan
On his way to Beijing, Dr. Fetters visits faculty and doctors from Noguchi Medical Research Institute in Toyko

I am very fortunate for all the ground work and success of the Global Reach Program under the U-M leadership of Senior Associate Dean Joseph Kolars, Assistant Dean Kevin Chung and the China Program Director Amy Huang.  It is amazing what they have accomplished through U-M and PUHSC Joint Institute Agreement and the U-M Global Reach China Platform. Similarly, the leadership from the PUHSC side: Vice President Weigang Fang, M.D., Ph.D., Qiudan Sun, Ph.D. and in particular, Dean Yali Cong, Ph.D., with whom I will be conducting collaborative research at PUHSC, has been a great support and colleague. Through this award, I hope to contribute to mutual collaboration and understanding with our U-M partners at PUHSC.

I hope also hope that my success will encourage and inspire others to apply for the Fulbright Program and pursue global reach activities. At PUHSC, I look forward to teaching graduate students mixed methods research, and to collaborating with PUHSC colleagues in the design and implementation of mixed methods research projects. The Fulbright Program also promotes opportunities to teach throughout China, so I hope this award will benefit not only our partner PUHSC, but also extend to scholars throughout China who are eager to learn and apply the cutting-edge mixed methods research procedures that we have been developing at the M3RSP. I believe my activities in China will further enhance the activities of the University of Michigan Mixed Methods Research and Scholarship Program after my return as well.

While at PUHSC, you’ll be conducting research on cross-cultural cancer disclosure, teaching, and writing an upcoming book on mixed methods research design. What is something you hope to contribute and something you hope to learn from your time at PUHSC?

I think a real strength that I bring to the table is that I've been engaged in cross-national, cross-cultural research for essentially my entire career. I’ll utilize skills that I've had working in other cross-cultural settings, in Japan and Qatar especially, but also with the Japanese population locally here and having worked with others who are doing work in Denmark.

image of hand holding paintbrush to write chinese calligraphy
Dr. Fetters looks forward to taking Chinese calligraphy lessons during his five-month Fulbright appointment.

It will be a great learning experience for me to find out more about how to operationalize research in China. What you do really need to do to get the research to go? It will be good to bring my own skills to the table, but also to learn a lot about that. I'm also very excited to learn more about Chinese language, which I’ve studied in the past. For me, the opportunity to just, live and breathe Chinese culture, food, language, song, is very very exciting.

I think it is great that there is a program like the Fulbright. I think it is really underutilized by people, and that people should really think more about it when they are ready to do a sabbatical.

You are a professor, the director of the Japanese Family Health Program, and now co-director of this new program (M3RSP). How do you prepare to spend five months “out of the office?”

I want to emphasize and express gratitude to my colleagues for giving me this opportunity to be away and to maintain and improve things. I think that is part of the Michigan difference - that we all work together and support each other. I feel like I can be gone in confidence that people will take care of things and make further progress as well.

Even though I will be gone, we are going to be having the M3RSP mixed methods workshop in November, which will really help people design and develop plans for implementing their mixed methods research projects. This will be the same kind of work that I will be doing in China, but it will be operated by my co-program lead, Dr. Creswell, acting co-lead Sara L. Warber, M.D., professor, the executive committee, and other members from the Department of Family Medicine.

What should people know about the upcoming M3RSP workshop?

Image of three women discussing research work in small group workshop
M3RSP Executive Committee member Arden M. Morris, MD, MPH and workshop participants discuss project

The three-day course [November 9-11, 2016] will be very interactive and very applied so people can come to the course they with their own research ideas. Through the workshop, they will be able to develop their research interest into mixed methods research proposals with rigorous approaches for integrating the two types of data collection procedures, to come up with really robust, very interesting findings about the compelling research questions that people are engaged with. Graduate students, faculty, and researchers interested can find out more on the M3RSP website.

Thanks to Dr. Fetters for taking time to share his upcoming plans a Fulbright Distinguished Chair.  Follow the U-M Family Medicine Twitter account (@UMFamilyMed) to keep up with Dr. Fetters' updates from China!