Six years ago, with China Cal, I embarked on an adventure that would inspire me to become a pediatrician. My return to China Cal six years later reflects the transformation this previous experience made in me. As a fourth year medical student equipped with more clinical knowledge and experience, I returned with greater confidence and ambition for the potential impact I could make. Through the joint effort of our China Cal team, we visited eight county hospitals in Wenshan, where we educated the obstetrics staff on congenital heart diseases and implemented routine newborn screening through the use of pulse oximetry and auscultation. In the afternoons, we tried to see as many patients as possible – performing echocardiograms and making follow-up recommendations. There were several kids born with very complicated and difficult to treat anatomies. There were also cases in which the kid was born with a reparable heart defect but had unfortunately missed the opportune timing for surgery. All of these cases were deeply heartbreaking to me. However, I know with confidence that, through our training program, we would be able to galvanize these local obstetricians and nurses into action and combat late-stage heart diseases through early detection and prevention. As an aspiring pediatrician, China Cal gave me the invaluable opportunity to be both a healer and a health advocate. I envision that, the next time I return to Yunnan, I will be able to help more children as a qualified pediatric cardiologist.
Review from Guidestar
I participated as an intern this winter, in December 2015. We begun in Dr. Detrano and Shan Shan's home in Dali and travelled to Yuxi for clinic and the pediatric training programme.
Coming from a non-health background, I remain very grateful for the experience. Dr. Detrano made every effort to teach and share his life experience, whether it be in cardiology, working in China, his path towards medicine, public health research, and running a non-profit in two countries. The sheer amount of work we did in two weeks was also inspiring, and allows everyone to see a very different and (often hard to access) side to China. ChinaCal's strong connections within Yunnan with administrators, doctors, government officials is a very special network that is the result of their good work, dedication and devotion to Yunnan's children. I left the trip very satisfied with the work and the people I met and the experience that I had. I felt like I had made a direct contribution to the program and the people we saw.
One thing I would note is that I did feel the trip could benefit from more participation aside from the clinic work. While I enjoyed the former immensely, I feel that volunteers could also be better used during the training sessions (though difficult for non-Mandarin speakers). If there is a way to also train the volunteers in "training" that would also be a beneficial experience. I would have also enjoyed learning more about methodologies in public health research. I personally had more room to do more with my time and effort.
All in all, I would highly recommend this experience. ChinaCal's own story is an inspiring one and will leave you thinking/rethinking about your own priorities and how you can best help others. I have a better understanding of Yunnan, China and my interests in medicine more generally.
Review from Guidestar
I participated as an intern in Chinacal's heart screening program in 2012.
I found the internship extremely satisfying. We spent almost 3 weeks in small villages in rural Yunnan. A great bunch of people. Lots of hard work. Lots to learn. It was seriously an eye opener - not just to learn about heart disease, but also to visit these remote regions and see what life was like for people living there.
I found the team to be hard-working and extremely focussed on the welfare of those children that we found. Dr Detrano and his team are extremely dedicated, and the work they do is simply heroic. The children would have no recourse to the resources that Chinacal makes available.
We were also able to meet with some children who had been through the process, and get feedback from them. It was amazing to see how genuinely appreciative they were.
One minor criticism was that I thought the internship did not really push students to learn as much as they could. It was more a case of learning how to auscultate, and then being left to do it. So great practice, but it would have been nice to have a stronger focus on the educational side of things. I appreciate that the charity is about help the sick, not about specifically providing education. However, given the expense and commitment made by interns, it is something I believe could be improved.
However, all in all, I believe Chinacal really does a great job and is well worth supporting. They are there, on the ground, providing assistance to people who really need it.
I am the founder and director of China Cal. I thank Guidestar and all of the reviewers for their helpful feedback at this site. Regarding our registration with the State of California, I thank World Traveller for helping get it back on track and current. I thank Professor Qiao for his excellent review of our organization and for his help as its Director of Research. All of you, including those of you who were less than completely enthused, have helped us continue to move and to grow. Together we will have a large impact in addressing the exploding epidemic of cardiovascular disease in rural China.
Going on my first China California Heart Watch trip as a Junior in High School, I had not yet been introduced to, what most would consider, the real world. What I received from the internship was not only an introduction, but a chance to truly make a difference. The villages we visited reflected the day-to-day lifestyle most farmers in Yunnan Province experience as well as the health problems that accompany it. We spent our days and nights amongst the people and developed relationships that transcended the alienating role of foreign philanthropist which we were all initially placed in. Such and intimate connection with the people solidified a general care for others within myself that I had not completely developed before the trip. Accompanying this newfound view of my relationship with others was the opportunity presented by the program to affect change. This was done through free clinics we conducted for anyone who wished to have a health check-up. As an intern, I helped conduct these clinics by collecting blood pressures as well as heart rates, interviewing villagers regarding their aliments, and assisting the doctors in obtaining ultrasound images. As well and most notably, the group collected data from the villagers, on their lifestyle and ensuing health, which has added to the literature regarding possible causes for hypertension and ensuing heart disease. In summation, China California Heart Watch provided me with the opportunity to help improve the health of a group of people, whom I specifically developed a close relationship with, as well as help obtain data that has contribute to the general cause of attempting to cure hypertension and ensuing heart disease.
Review from Guidestar
When I interned with China Cal, I had experience as a bedside pediatrics RN and was in my second year of NP school. There are other programs like Op Smile that I could have participated in as a nurse, but China Cal was something that had sparked an interest during my undergraduate career. I wanted to expose myself to global health work while not necessarily overwhelming myself with the role of a bedside RN in a completely new environment.
China Cal was a great avenue for getting involved in global health. The role of the intern/volunteer is simple enough to be taught to pre-health students. It’s not the type of program that you should go into if you’re expecting to do a lot of medical care with more autonomy as a health professional, which is why their target audience is pre-health students. That is not to say that they don’t welcome health professionals. The great thing about the people that started and run this program is they’re always open to helping you achieve your goals. They welcome new ideas and help in any shape and form.
The basis of the program is assessment and gaining funding for surgery on these kids. Your role can be very basic and I can see how some people might find that they are not making a difference or learning much, but there is no other place that you could listen to over 1000 heart sounds in 3 weeks. You do learn some things on your own but the doctors were always eager to teach and answer questions if you asked. When I went, they even had a researcher from South Africa come and introduce/lecture on a computer assisted cardiac auscultation device.
It definitely wasn't the most organize thing I've ever participated in, but I attributed more of that to the fact that 1) it's a newer organization and 2) rural China in general is not the most organized place. A lot of the schedule has to be coordinated with schools that they couldn't always communicate with. I never expected things to be smooth sailing as many of these schools were in the middle of nowhere. There are things they can learn from and change to improve their program but the passion and care they showed really resonate. I remember a conversation we had with Dr. Detrano over dinner and him saying "If you had the means to help, why wouldn't you." I don't remember what the conversation was about but that is something that has stuck with me.
I am an ICU nurse. I deal with very sick children on the brink of death more often than most people. I know what it feels like to make a difference in someone's life. You won’t get that same satisfaction in China. You’re not triaging patients, you’re not doing CPR on a kid, or seeing operations happen, but you’re giving these kids the most basic care that they would otherwise never get. It is humbling and gratifying in an unexpectedly simple aspect.
I would recommend this program for undergraduate and pre-health students. However, I encourage health professionals who want to get involved to talk to the program organizers and see what you can do to help.
I am writing as a medical professional. I'm an American professor of clinical medicine and have volunteered 3 times with China Cal. This year, I have obtained a grant from Am College of Chest Physicians for CCHW to host a training course for the village "doctors" in Yunnan. I will personally teach some of these courses.
When deciding whether to volunteer for CCHW or any other organization, I look at 2 things: 1) whether the activity of the organization benefits those in need; 2) whether my donation/devotion will generate real impact. With these, I approached CCHW 3 years ago. SInce then, I've become more involved.
China has made significant advances in economy over the last few decades. However, it still lacks proper health care for its rural population. In some villages with populations exceeding one thousand, there is only one "doctor", usually a high school graduate with little to no medical training.
As such, CCHW is a prime opportunity for students looking to make a difference. First off, CCHW gives students the skills to perform physical examinations. These skills are immediately put to use; Students volunteers screen school children for congenital heart disease and villagers for hypertension. In my trip, I led 7 students, some of whom were high schoolers from Canada and USA, and all became quite comfortable at picking up a heart murmur at the end of the 3-week period.
Although volunteers work in a very rural area, CCHW tries to arrange decent accommodation. Some inconvenience is unavoidable. Nevertheless, in addition to work satisfaction, volunteers get to enjoy Yunnan's scenic environment.
In summary, volunteering with CCHW is a rewarding experience for all participants. In addition to the benefits of doing meaningful work, the experience of CCHW is also sure to assist prospective students with achieving more in their medical careers.
I was looking for opportunities to do medical service work in a foreign country and happened upon China California Heart Watch. The organization sounded pretty appealing, but some of the negative reviews concerned me. When I looked up more information on it, I found that it is actually classified as "delinquent" through the state of California because it has not renewed its nonprofit license since 2011. I wasn't able to find any information on Charity Navigator so my guess is that it's still a small organization. My personal intuition is to not join since it's not an officially a registered charity and I've been burned in the past donating to illegitimate organizations. Just thought I would put up a note in case others were also considering joining an internship.
I volunteered during a China-Cal internship December 2011. This is a smaller-scale organization that is doing great work in very-rural China, serving a population that would otherwise never have access to professional medical evaluation or expertise to this degree. During the internship, the volunteer teams travel to various rural towns and villages to provide school children with screening for congenital heart disease. Those screened to have concerning murmurs are provided a more in-depth physical examination and echocardiogram by the physician team leaders, and those with intervenable congenital heart disease are sent (often with invaluable financial support from China-Cal) to larger medical centers in Kunming to be definitively treated. Volunteers in the program act as physician extenders of the teams, doing the bulk of school-child screening by auscultation, and organizing, taking histories and vital signs for free clinics. In this vein, the bulk of the volunteer work performed is most suited to pre-medical undergraduates, or pre-clinical medical students, though I was a medical resident and still gained enormously from the incredible pathology that is seen (unlike what you often see in the US) and the ability to work with this underserved population. The patients welcome any and all help and there is abundant medical pathology to be seen, so for the interested and engaged, you get out of it what you put in.
The "donation' that volunteers are asked to give goes toward paying for the screening expeditions, the financial support provided to patients to obtain definitive treatment, and the medications and equipment for free clinics. To maximize the amount of this donation that can go to serve the patients, which is the mission of the organization, volunteers are asked to also pay for their "on-the-ground" costs during the trip. The sometimes very rural nature of the villages served and the unpredictability of the itinerary (subject to the sometimes last minute requests of local government officials) can result in unforseen delays in transportation or lodging, which I imagine explains some of the negative reviews here. But this is to be expected when doing volunteer work on-the-ground in rural regions of a developing country. Overall, China-cal does a great job of organizing the volunteer trips, finding safe and comfortable housing and providing safe and adequate food, all in portions of southwestern China that few if any Westerners ever have the opportunity to set foot in, much less make a lasting impact.
Review from Guidestar
I was a master of public health student who did my practicum with China California Heart Watch (China Cal). The experience was very eye-opening to me, in terms of learning cultural competency when working in foreign countries, understanding the challenges of working in resource-limited settings, and learning how to think creatively to adapt to local circumstances. China Cal does some very valuable work in the Yunnan region. It trains local village doctors on topics in cardiovascular health, which is very important because the gap in knowledge in rural doctors is huge and the practice of evidence-based medicine is still very poor. It also conducts screening of congenital heart defects in young school-aged children. In each of the school screenings that I participated in, we found several children with heart murmurs, performed additional examination on children with signs of congenital heart disease, and referred them to treatment facilities for further care. Coming from a public health background, I was really able to appreciate the value of these screenings, which allowed early detection and diagnosis of heart disease in these children, which in turn had the potential to drastically alter their disease prognosis and impact their prospects for a productive adult life.
China Cal is effective in its work not only because of the passion and dedication from its leadership, but also because it has earned great respect in the Chinese community for the much needed work that it does for underserved populations. When we travel to different villages, we were received with warmth and gratitude from village leaders as well as from villagers we served. After many years of serving the area, I think China Cal has really been successful in building rapport with key stakeholders, which is so vital for any organization's long-term sustainability.
Overall, I would say my experience with China Cal was a very positive, teaching, and rewarding one.
Review from Guidestar