A memorandum which is to lead to the re-training of five million village doctors in rural China is to be signed on 23 May in Beijing, China. The memorandum goes back to the initiative of Terence Ryan, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Oxford, who has been instrumental in drawing it up and will participate in the signing.
The Memorandum of Understanding has been set up jointly by the International Foundation for Dermatology (IFD) and the Institute of Dermatology at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences at Peking Union Medical College. The discipline of dermatology in China covers sexually transmitted infections including AIDS and tropical diseases such as leprosy and lymphatic filariasis.
The signing will lead to a cascade in education proposed by Professor Ryan, from a Masters in Public Health Dermatology to provide trainers of more than 2000 dermatologists, to teach 100,000 hospital doctors to meet the needs of five million village doctors.
Professor Ryan said: 'These village doctors evolved from the celebrated 'Barefoot Doctor' scheme of decades ago and there is a thirst for knowledge far from being alleviated. They need to manage common problems and need a system of confident referral of those conditions with which they are unfamiliar.
'The Chinese have an integrated system of medicine combining Chinese traditional medicine with western biomedicine and one objective is to ensure poverty alleviation by the elimination of ineffective medicines, especially when they are expensive western substitutes, inappropriately prescribed after incorrect diagnosis. Many locally available herbal remedies have been proven to be effective and cheap.'
The Department of Dermatology at the University of Oxford has a track record of collaboration with China in the fields of leprosy, which is showing signs of breaking out again, and in the management of burns, a common problem in China.
The International Foundation for Dermatology (IFD) is under the aegis of the International League of Dermatology Societies and has official relations with the World Health Organisation (WHO). The IFD has pioneered dermatological programmes in Africa and in countries such as Tanzania which followed for many years the Chinese system of health service organisation. The success of the IFD in upgrading such a service has been noted in China where care of the skin and its role in the early diagnosis of AIDS and leprosy in rural health services has not had recent emphasis.
Professor Ryan holds two honorary professorial titles at the Peking Union Medical College, one since 1986 at the Institute for Microcirculation and the other since last year at the Institute of Dermatology. He is also the founding general secretary and immediate past chairman of the IFD.
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