Global Perspective: Recovery and Renewal in Asia
Oct 16, 2023 Heitham Hassoun, MD
As our weather and sports calendar turn to my favorite season—fall—I can finally reflect on a busy summer of travel and Cedars-Sinai International engagements. After the global breach in economic and social activity from an unprecedented pandemic, I had the welcome opportunity to get back to China and Southeast Asia in earnest.
A dynamic renewal is underway among our global healthcare partners and colleagues. Our field is vibrant again. There is no doubt that communities and economies around the globe have taken significant hits and, as one might expect, the shape and pace of renewal varies among countries and cultures.
China, for example, is grappling with various challenges, such as a protracted shutdown and economic contraction, but healthcare seems to be a notable exception. Clinicians and staff are energized and looking to the future. Innovation, technology, building new hospitals and expanding medical services—these were the topics of conversation wherever I went, from Shenzhen to Beijing to Shanghai and beyond.
Shenzhen was a highlight of my visit. The 1,100-bed hospital we are helping to develop with Taikang Healthcare is nearly complete, and it was thrilling to see our shared vision becoming a reality. This will be a busy year as we prepare to commission something special.
We are also honored to be working with Tsinghua University—the “MIT of China”—to help train the next generation of healthcare leaders and trailblazers.
The central government in Beijing is seeking ways to stimulate the economy, and it appears investing in healthcare tops the list. There is a concerted effort to grow the workforce of skilled medical professionals, public hospitals are building new branches and a significant number of projects are aimed at attracting international patients from neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.
From our perspective at Cedars-Sinai International, U.S.-China relations are solid, our volume of patients coming from China has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and our Chinese colleagues are keen to explore new ventures and collaborations.
The dynamism is evident in Chinese education, too: Across the country, medicine, nursing and medical technologies are consistently among the most sought-after majors for top-tier students.
We made new inroads in Southeast Asia as we participated in major conferences in Vietnam and Thailand and visited several top private-sector hospitals. Great energy is being focused on enhancing clinical delivery systems to serve the population and attract patients from the region. The leaders I spoke with were emphatically optimistic and keen on healthcare collaborations.
This spirit of renewal and collaboration was very much alive at the third annual Patient Experience and Engagement Summit in July in Bangkok, with participants from Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This was the first Southeast Asian conference for our Cedars-Sinai International team, and we were notably the only American academic medical center in attendance.
Along with all the positive energy, my travels underscored the need to heighten our collective preparedness for the next global health crisis. Those of us committed to advancing global healthcare must continue to work together to standardize care. Until the day comes when there is an international regulatory body overseeing healthcare, it is vital that we keep sharing data and advancing regulatory frameworks that create the consistency and continuity that can insulate our interconnected systems from disruption.
All in all, my summer travels renewed my confidence in our shared vision for global healthcare and my respect for our colleagues who are reaching across borders, languages and cultures to deliver the best possible care to each patient we serve.
Last but not least, the most valuable lesson from summer 2023 was this: We are all one team, and we will continue to expand and evolve together.