• November 1, 2017
The visiting SYSU students with College of Dentistry faculty.

The Guanghua School of Stomatology at Sun Yat-Sen University (SYSU) in Guangzhou, China, for the first time sent their dental students to the UIC College of Dentistry this year.

“Under the exchange agreement established in 2012, the SYSU dental students will learn about the dental education system and dental health care system in the United States,” said Dr. Christine Wu, Professor, Pediatric Dentistry. “They will observe teaching at the pre- and post-grad dental clinics and research laboratories. They will also attend several Small Group Learning sessions, seminars and extracurricular activities.”

During the past five years, several UIC College of Dentistry students have spent four weeks during their extramural service learning rotations at the Guanghua School of Stomatology.

This summer, four SYSU dental students, Louise Chen, Sissi Chen, Cindy Huang, and Lexie Liu visited the College for four weeks in July and August under the supervision of Dr. Wu, who organized the visit.

“During the first week we had the opportunity to tour the College and the UIC campus and to know more about what was happening at the school here,” Louise Chen said of the students’ schedule. “From the second week and on, we had a full schedule of observing pre-docs and post-graduate clinics. We joined in small group learning and lunch and learn seminars.”

The four, who speak excellent English, were particularly surprised by the warm welcome they received at the College.

“The most impressive thing is that people here are really friendly,” Huang said. “Friendly and nice,” noted her colleague, Sissi Chen. “Hospitable,” Louise Chen agreed.

They quickly observed the differences between the two universities.

“The teaching schedule is different,” Liu explained. “Your students have access to the clinic in the D-1 and D-2 years. We can’t do clinical procedures until the fourth year. And you have clinics where only students practice. What a great idea; we don’t have that.

“I think all that gives your students a lot of experience before they actually become dentists,” Liu continued. “We have only one year of clinical procedures. Your system makes our training seem a little rushed by comparison.”

“Your use of case studies in education is very efficient,” Louise Chen said. “That’s different from the teaching style we experience, too. We are taught about the dental aspect, but at your college, through Small Group Learning curriculum, students learn about the body systems and how they interact with the oral cavity. They have to discuss the patient’s fundamental health situation.”

“We find the extramural program of 16 weeks away from UIC very interesting,” Liu said. “It allows you to see how other clinics and health systems work.”

“By going abroad, some of your students learn different cultures, too,” Sissi Chen said.

“Not only China, but Colorado, Guatemala, and Africa, too,” Huang said. “Wow!”

Other notable differences to the students were attributes of the larger campus. The University of Illinois has three campuses, in Chicago, Urbana, and Springfield. Sun Yat-Sen University, the students said, has five campuses.

“Where we are from is the SYSU north campus, or the medical campus,” Liu said. “The School of Stomatology has an education building, a stomatology hospital and an oral research institute”

The students were housed at UIC on the East Campus. “Your shuttle bus is very convenient,” Sissi Chen said. “But it’s also convenient to walk between the two campuses,” said Louise Chen. “It only takes us 20 minutes to get here walking, or we can take the shuttle or public bus.”

Dr. Wu took the students on a tour of the University of Illinois Hospital as well. “We saw that there were fewer patients in the hospital than in China,” Sissi Chen said. “In China we have lots of patients waiting for doctors, so it’s quite different. It is more comfortable here for the patients to have a meeting with the doctor.”

The friendliness factor was a topic that the students enjoyed returning to and talking about. “A student we just met yesterday invited us to join her in a volunteer program providing free dental services in the community,” Louise Chen said. “That was nice.”

“People here are really happy to offer us help,” Huang said.

“They want to help us no matter what problem we have,” Sissi Chen said. “They’re so nice, so friendly.”        

“Not only were these students exposed to UIC and the College’s educational system, but they were exposed to American culture, customs, and lifestyles,” Dr. Wu said. “These memories will be with them forever and be treasured always.

“They also showed that they appreciated our staff and especially our students, who were very patient with them at the clinics and took time to explain various procedures,” Dr. Wu added. “They have also cultivated lifelong friendships with several of our dental students.

“They will be bringing back their experiences to China and hopefully help to improve and make a difference in their education system,” Dr. Wu said.

During the last week at the college, the SYSU students presented at a lunch and learn seminar on what they have learned here and the differences they observed between the two education systems. They were especially impressed with the College’s faculty and students’ learning attitude, especially utilizing the precious lunch hour. “In China, most schools and government institutions have a long lunch break from noon to 2 p.m., but end the day later,” said Liu. “The long lunch hour gives workers the opportunity to rest and refresh during a busy day”.

Dr. Susan Rowan, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, was instrumental in designing the clinical schedule for the students, and Jennifer Bereckis, Director of Clinical Operations, also helped coordinate their activities while they were here.

Dean Clark Stanford visited SYSU in 2016 when he signed a renewal of the exchange agreement established between the two schools in 2012, and taught a clinical continuing education course in implantology. Over the years, visiting research scholars and faculty from the Guanghua School of Stomatology have participated in collaborative research projects of mutual interests at the UIC College of Dentistry. College faculty members have also presented Continuing Education courses, both clinical and research, at the Guanghua School of Stomatology.

“Our four visiting dental students from Sun Yat-Sen University, China, enjoyed a scientific, educational, clinical, and cultural exchange with our UIC community,” Dean Stanford said. “Think you to Dr. Christine Wu for mentoring our visiting students. We wish them the best as they carry forward and remember their time here in Chicago. Thank you all for helping our Asian ambassadors.”

Guanghua School of Stomatology has a complete range of specialties with 18 teaching and research offices, among which the specialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) is the Asian Experimental Training Base for Diplomates in OMFS. The school has a complete education system of all academic degrees and has been granted a postdoctoral research station. It now enrolls over 200 undergraduates and graduates, with over 1,000 students on campus. The school pioneers in introducing advanced teaching facilities. It has built a large-scale multimedia simulation laboratory, and has built 13 stomatological bases for clinical practice, which provide the students with an excellent environment to train in for their clinical and research.

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