When we stepped into Guangzhou Women and Children Medical Center at 8 o’clock on Monday morning, this public hospital located in Zhujiang New Town, as usual was already crowded. Walking through the crowd, we were heading to Abraham Morse’s office on the 11th floor.
His office looks like any other doctor’s office in China, painted uniformly in shades of gray with a tidy desk and a hospital bed. However, the English handbooks on the bookshelf and the diplomas from overseas on the wall suggest something different.
The photo shows the bookshelf in Abraham Morse’s office. Morse said he loves trying different types of Chinese tea.
The office’s occupant, Abraham Morse, was one of the very first foreign doctors working full-time in Guangdong’s public hospitals. He came here to be the chief of a urogynecology department in 2016, which, as he described, is “a unique opportunity” that has connected him with the city.
Morse said working in a Chinese public hospital while clearly different to working in the U.S. sometimes shares more in common than you might expect.
Over the past two years, he has undertaken clinical care, helped improve surgical and academic training, as well as having taught English while learning Chinese at work. “In the beginning, my colleagues spoke English so that I could understand, but now when they speak Chinese I can understand. Medical terminology is not that hard, for example, “宫外孕” is ectopic pregnancy.”
Reported by Jasmine Yin
Edited by Wing Zhang, Simon Haywood
How a foreign doctor came to work in a Chinese public hospital
Graduating from Harvard Medical School, Abraham Morse is a professional in the field of urogynecology experiences both in clinical care and directing research teams. He first visited China more than thirty years ago in 1986, and he always hoped that he could find a way to return.
“I like China and think we have something in common. I like people’s attitude here. They are hardworking and value education so much that they want their children to have the best that they can.” As his children were growing up, Morse wanted to give them the experience of living somewhere else and seeing that the world is much larger than Boston, Massachusetts.
Doctor Morse said he goes to work by bus everyday in Guangzhou.[PhotoShi Lei]
It was in 2016 that Morse discovered that the Guangzhou Women and Children Hospital was looking for a western trained physician to lead their urogynecology department. “It was not a very common kind of opportunity. Foreign doctors might have short-term training in public hospitals, but usually end up working in private hospitals. So I felt very intrigued.”
In recent years, Guangzhou has been focusing on the development of its IT, AI and bio-tech industries, formulating a series of advantageous policies for enterprises to hire overseas professionals like Abraham Morse and for these experts to live and work in the city.
According the latest report released by the Center for China and Globalization in 2017, there are 200,000 overseas experts working in Guangdong each year, accounting for 20.8 percent of the national total; Guangzhou being the top destination with one third of the provincial total.
Abraham Morse is having a regular check on the patient.[PhotoShi Lei]
Morse said having foreign doctors is essential if a public hospital aims to improve medical services and be more connected to the international community.
“Guangzhou’s medical industry has been developing rapidly. However, the availability of technology, safe anesthesia and very advanced surgery are relatively new here, but are well developed in the U.S. and Western Europe. So we can share our knowledge and help people to advance their capabilities more quickly,” he said
Meanwhile, Morse teaches research methods and professional English every day. He considers it important for local doctors to be able to understand English language journals and write papers in English. “They can submit their papers to high quality international journals and make it easier for the hospital to become successful as an international medical center.”
A public hospital’s international vision
Guangzhou Women and Children Medical Center is a public hospital with an international vision. Dr. Morse said the president Dr. 夏慧敏 has a lot of ideas to develop the hospital. Dr. Morse also said that he has participated in many international exchange activities in the past two years.
“If somebody from outside China visits, I can be the one to help introduce how the hospital works and who they need to talk to. Hopefully helping them understand what's available here and what kind of collaboration would likely succeed.”
In February, the hospital had an international meeting sponsored by Nature, a medical journal with one of the widest readerships in the world. The meeting brought experts to give lectures and people came from all over the region to both listen to and to interact with them.
“I was lucky enough to help one of the lecturers (a very successful gynecologist) by showing her around Guangzhou. Besides helping her adjust to the city and to make their meeting more productive, I was excited because I got to meet someone that I wouldn't have met otherwise,” he said.
The Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) presents the certification of Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology to the Guangzhou Women and Children Medical Center. Abraham Morse is a project member. [Photo Official website of the Guangzhou Women and Children Medical Center.]
In addition, Morse has been involved in the hospital gaining certifications from the world’s major medical and healthcare commissions, such as the HIMSS, JCI and SRC. He said there are many hospitals, doctors and professors abroad who are interested in China. They will likely see this kind of certification and say, “Oh, this hospital is more likely to have the capability to increase the success of our collaboration”.
Wrapping up the interview, we told Doctor Morse that it’s delightful to talk to an online celebrity like him (he made the headlines in local media when started working in Guangzhou). He laughed and said, “he’s not any more”. In these two years, the hospital has employed three more full-time foreign physicians and quite a few foreign researchers.
Morse hoped that he would have the opportunity to be a part of things here for many years to come. “I think Guangzhou is an exciting place to live and work. It’s interesting that the city is less well known in the west, but it is the country’s economic center and the place where most of the Chinese people we meet and the restaurants we visit in the U.S. come from.”