Joint PhD program for Chinese students growing

A research training initiative in partnership with the Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) has welcomed its newest student from China.

Huilun (Helen) Wang is the newest PUHSC student to join the UMMS-PUHSC PhD program. Her mentor is Cardiology Professor Eugene Chen.

Huilun (Helen) Wang, a PUHSC medical student, is taking a five-year break from her MD training in China to pursue a PhD in research at the University of Michigan. She is part of a select group of promising Chinese students involved in the MD-PhD program run through UMHS’ Joint Institute partnership with PUHSC.

“I am definitely fortunate to be selected and to be here,” Ms. Wang said.  “Five years is a long time, but I came for the PhD program because I wanted to explore medicine more broadly to find new treatments, new medicines for patients – something you cannot learn in just an MD program.”

The doctoral degree program was launched three years ago to foster advanced research opportunities for top PUHSC students, as well as bolster the overall collaboration between the two institutions. The program mirrors UMMS’ Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS). Participants earn their PhD at UMMS, return to PUHSC to finish their MD, and hopefully help develop a growing community of physician scientists there in the years to come.

“I think that we, as educators, have an obligation to help train the next generation of physician scientists to be academic leaders,” said UMMS Cardiology Professor Eugene Chen, who oversees some of the PUHSC PhD students in his lab. “Twenty years from now, the future of medicine relies on the education and training that we provide today. We can help these students accelerate science and advance discovery, not just in the United States or in China, but everywhere.”

Before arriving this fall for the PhD program, Ms. Wang had been to the United States just one other time – for a one-month research rotation at UMMS last summer. She was hooked.

“The teams here are really dedicated to their work and they are really good mentors,” she said. “I just wanted to return to see what more I can learn. I realized that a lot of problems cannot be solved in clinic by doctors alone, so I became more interested in research.”