Graduate Perspective: Xiao Ji from DKU Global Health '19

May 2, 2019

Xiao Ji graduated from DKU’s Global Health Master’s Program on Monday, April 29, 2019.

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Xiao Ji during graduation festivities at Duke Kunshan on Monday, April 29. Photo courtesy of Xiao Ji

Please introduce yourself!

My name is Ji Xiao, I'm from Shenyang, China, and I just graduated from DKU's Global Health Master's program. Before I came to DKU, I was a doctor. I spent eight years studying in medical school in China, and then spent another four years practicing as a cardiologist in a tertiary hospital in China.  And then, after that, with years of experience in clinical treatment, I came to DKU.  Now, my interest is pursuing the work at the intersection of disease prevention and primary healthcare.


Why did you decide to go back to graduate school?

First of all, I really loved my job as a doctor. But it wasn't completely fulfilling. In the past several years, I saw many patients. I worked very hard and treated more than a thousand patients in four years, but I also noticed that so many patients were not aware of disease prevention or management. Also, China has very limited primary healthcare facilities, so a lot of patients came to the tertiary hospital. So I was asking myself, “How many patients can I cure in my whole life?” My conclusion was that I need to do more preventive healthcare rather than just clinical treatment. That's why I wanted to change jobs: I wanted to learn more about preventive healthcare, public healthcare, as well as health systems and health technologies, and the best place for me to increase my knowledge was to pursue additional education.  It was a tough decision, to be honest. But if you are confident enough and you just follow your heart, you will get it. So that's why I came back to school. 


What attracted you to the DKU Global Health Master's program?

When I decided to go back to school, my original target was public health programs. I searched online, and then, by accident, I came across the idea of "global health." It was a brand new concept to me at that moment. I read more about it, and I read all of the blogs written by alumni or students from DKU, and discovered that it was exactly what I wanted in a program.

The aspect that attracted me the most was the field research component.  To me, it was something fascinating. You have the opportunity to research and live locally with some other health providers from different cultures and health systems and you can learn about both successes and failures in healthcare from them. For me, that is really precious. Also, you can spend time in three different countries. It's awesome. That has to be an experience you can only experience once in your life.


What have you most enjoyed, or found most valuable about the program?

First of all, the fantastic courses. Secondly, the first-hand experience of field research. Third, the amazing interdisciplinary collaboration.

The courses were so interesting. I chose Non-communicable Disease courses for the first semester, and I learned a lot about how to manage and follow up with chronic disease patients, especially for diabetes and hypertension, which are highly related to my background.  I also Iearned how to use mobile devices for patient management, which is something that is really interesting and helpful to my career. We also had courses related to research design practice, and we learned how to design high quality research projects, including quantitative research and quantitative research methods. Also, statistics and epidemiology courses helped me dig deeply into how to analyze data precisely and accurately.

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Xiao with global health classmates and faculty at Duke Kunshan University. Photo courtesy of Xiao Ji

Among all of the courses, I liked a class called Comparative Health Systems the most. This course actually helped me to narrow down my interests into primary health as well as health innovation. During my study in this course, I started to think more about the health system rather than just the patients. I learned to compare China’s health system with other countries’ health systems, and to ask what should be improved in China and what can we do. I know China is going through a reform of its health system, and I really want to devote myself to this reform. So I think this course, and all of these courses were really helpful for me to build up my future career, step by step.

I also found the field research to be really valuable. I conducted my research collaborating with Dr. Ann Marie Navar from the Duke Clinical Research Institute. We conducted an online survey among providers in both China and the US. The survey was about the attitudes among the doctors regarding lipid management. It was awesome to work with another professor in the same field in another country. I got to know more and more about the US health system, and why the providers in the US have such different attitudes compared with providers in China, and how the different guidelines work for them. I feel like this was very helpful, and I got to set up very good connections with doctors here.

And the third part I mentioned was interdisciplinary collaboration. For me, it's also the diversity of our program, because my classmates are all from different backgrounds, including programming, engineering, biology, internal medicine, healthcare administration, and medical English-- all different kinds of backgrounds. So, you can learn from all kinds of people, and it's great when different people with different backgrounds work on the same project. It's kind of like the movie, "Fantastic Four" - you all have different abilities and use them to solve the problem.  It's like, one plus one is greater than two. So, I like the teamwork and I like my team members. I hope this kind of collaboration between different disciplines can create some sparks in the future for China's healthcare system.

Because of all I have learned and experienced in the program, I have also learned how I can bring these aspects into practice in the future.  So I think, even though my main goal has mostly remained the same, it has slightly changed over time. I'm glad that I can see my future more and more clearly.


What are your next steps after graduation?

My next step will work at the intersection of in health innovation and primary healthcare. I have noticed that there are projects in this field in Asian countries so I am applying for positions in these programs and other health-related technology companies. Now that I have both a clinical background and a global health background, I plan to integrate them. 


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Xiao and global health classmates at graduation at Duke Kunshan University on Monday, May 29. Photo courtesy of Xiao Ji