November 13, 2020

After COVID, Zoom enables new levels of engagement by leaders at partner school in China

Recent research presentations by visiting medical students from China drew a virtual audience that spanned the globe.

A screenshot from the recent research presentation Zoom seminar. Outlined in red is Xiangya School of Medical deputy dean Xiaochuang Wu, who logged on from China.

Central South University’s Xiangya School of Medicine sends ten students to Ann Arbor each year for extended research training experiences under Michigan Medicine faculty mentors. They remain for two years, providing a mid-point project progress presentation and a capstone presentation at the conclusion of their experience.

When COVID-19 forced those presentations from in-person to online, it also presented an opportunity to expand the audience. During the most recent round of presentations, students presented not just to their UMMS peers and mentors, but also to the leaders of their home institution who logged on from China to watch.

“We are very happy to attend this meeting and see our students achieve such marvelous results with professional presentations and with their very useful guidance from their mentors,” said Xiangya School of Medicine Deputy Dean Xiaochuang Wu. “We are happy with that and we hope our student trainees receive more results the next year while waiting for their development.”

Having audience members from Xiangya marked a program first and launched a trend that will likely continue. 

“Having to shift the presentations into a virtual format gave us the opportunity to involve our partner institution and showcase the program and the trainees in real-time, which turned out to be beneficial,” said Global REACH program manager Jiawei Ribaudo, PhD. “In the pandemic, we’re discovering new processes out of necessity, but some of the changes are likely to remain long after COVID is gone.”

Over the last six years, the partnership between UMMS and Xiangya has provided in-depth research experience to more than 40 participants who learn research under Michigan Medicine faculty across a variety of disciplines. The visiting students - among China's top medical students - bring their own skills and perspectives, enhancing the learning and research communities at UMMS.

COVID-19 travel restrictions delayed the arrival of one cohort but the partnership, fully funded by Central South University, is slated to continue and even expand. The current two-year program is non-degree conferring, but next year will see addition of a new dual-degree program in which the admitted Xiangya students remain in Ann Arbor for longer than two years to earn a research PhD.