Flinders trains China’s new GP trainers

(from left) Dr Pan Chen, Professor Chris Franco and Dr Xiuhong Yuan

Medical specialists from China’s Central South University (CSU) will spend the next few weeks learning about rural and remote general practice (GP) at Flinders University, as part of a joint venture aimed at bolstering the number of GPs in China.

Drs Pan Chen and Xiuhong Yuan are among the first cohort of CSU staff coming to Flinders to become trainers under the new China-Australia General Practitioner Education, Training and Research Centre, based at the 3rd Xiangya Hospital of CSU in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province.

The visit is one of the first actions to arise from an agreement between the two universities to establish the joint GP training and research centre, aimed at helping the Chinese Government reach its target of 400,000 qualified GPs by 2020.

As part of the agreement, Flinders will help CSU design and implement the second and third years of its new postgraduate GP training program, which includes a rural clinical placement, while Flinders will send staff and students over to China for various study exchanges.

Dr Chen, who is based in CSU’s Clinical Psychology Department, said the pair will spend the majority of their time at the Flinders Rural Clinical School in Mt Gambier to learn how to plan, deliver and evaluate GP education.

“We hope to understand how to train GPs and we also want to learn how to evaluate the teaching of GPs by the trainer,” Ms Chen said.

“In China there is currently no special course for training GPs so it’s expected that CSU’s postgraduate program will become the model for the whole of China,” she said.

Flinders Associate Professor Lucie Walters, the co-director of the China-Australia General Practitioner Education, Training and Research Centre, said the collaboration also aimed to increase the number of GPs working in rural and remote regions of China.

“A lot of our graduates continue to stay in the country after their third year rural placement because they like it so much,” Associate Professor Walters said.

“China struggles to attract city doctors to the country so by offering training in a rural setting it’s hoped more doctors will move to country areas,” she said.

Flinders Associate Head of Faculty (International) Professor Chris Franco said the GP training centre would focus on the broader aspects of healthcare.

“People who train in a hospital only see a very small number of patients in a very highly-resourced environment but GPs see a lot more patients with a diverse set of ailments,” Professor Franco said.

“At Flinders, the entire third year of our medical program can be taken in a rural GP setting which means the training enables students to participate in the ongoing care of patients and to gain insights into the decision-making processes,” he said.

“As a result, students develop a high level of competence and are more confident in dealing with patients.

“The way we train our medical students, especially in the rural clinics, is a model for teaching medical students and GPs more broadly, and I think China will have a lot to gain by following our lead.”

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