At the Very Center of Healthcare

China is a long distance from the Very Center of Business. The China Chazen group reunited for dinner on Sunday for a traditional Chinese dinner, lazy Susan included. We were excited to be together, but the energy was low because of a 10-hour tarmac delay on our flights and The Octagon. Regardless, we were looking forward to the real start to the trip, Monday morning’s first company visit.

We knew our anticipation was tangible when the Chazen leader complimented us on being on time for the morning bus. Our first stop was United Family Healthcare (“UFH”), China’s first US accredited hospital, founded by CBS alumni Roberta Lipson ‘78. For those of us that have spent time in hospitals, UFH appeared to be the same as any other US hospital. It was evident that Roberta’s business model was founded on importing the “American way” to the hospital (e.g., first hospital to broadly use Purell, first hospital to implement privacy dividers at the pharmacy, first hospital with a crash cart on each floor).

Roberta’s father-in-law died in a Chinese hospital when the physicians could not find the correct sized tube for incubation. Therefore, she’s made a number of innovations in her own hospital. For example, including a plastic, easily breakable lock on the crash cart to manage inventory throughout UFH. When something is removed from the crash cart, the lock is broken, which signals that inventory needs to be replenished. The simple lock is now implemented in numerous hospitals throughout China.

Roberta didn’t merely import da Vinci machines and Siemens MRI machines, she also imported a mindset far removed from the traditional hierarchical Chinese structure. UFH empowers nurses and pharmacists to question the physicians and express their views. Traditionally, in China, the physician’s word is taken as gospel and is not questioned. Roberta brought the American way to Chinese hospitals, but UFH needs to balance western medicine with the deep-rooted desire for traditional Chinese medicine (“TCM”). Roberta mentioned the difficulties of educating her patients on Western medicine. They utilize TCM as an adjunct therapy, not as a monotherapy. UFH can provide better care to their patients via the combination of imported western medicine and TCM.

Tuesday was a sightseeing day for the ages. As we walked pass the countless number of cameras, we entered Tiananmen Square and were amazed by the history of the place. We spent time taking pictures and admiring the omnipresent oil painting of Chairman Mao. As we posed for the group picture, Batman (our local tour guide) quickly sprung into action, leveraged his utility belt, and intercepted our CBS Chazen banner. He shook in fear at the thought of explaining to the Chinese military that “Chazen” was Columbia Business School’s institute for global business and not propaganda promoting revolutionary acts against the government.

After Tiananmen Square, we were off to the Forbidden City to walk through centuries-old history that makes American history seem pediatric. After a bus ride and a quick lunch, it was time for the big kahuna, the main reason millions of yearly tourists visit Beijing: the Great Wall. No smog-filled sky could keep us from walking on one of the new seven wonders of the world.

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