November 10, 2017

First Hospital pediatrician trains for a year at Michigan Medicine

Xuhui Zhong (center, right) a Pediatric Nephrologist from PKU First Hospital, with UMMS colleagues (from left) Matthew Simpson, Debbie Gipson, and Larysa Wickman.

A pediatrician from China has recently returned home after a year-long visit to Michigan Medicine to study clinical research techniques alongside UMMS faculty.

Dr. Xuhui Zhong, from Peking University First Hospital, spent all of 2017 working on research with Professor of Pediatrics Debbie Gipson and shadowing in clinic with Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Larysa Wickman.

“I have done some research work at PKU, but I was looking for additional training to improve those skills,” said Zhong, MD. “My goal was to learn how to design and implement studies and do analysis on a clinical research project – the whole process.”

The Joint Institute partnership paved the way for the training; Zhong’s PUHSC mentor, Professor of Pediatric Nephrology Jie Ding, is the co-PI on a JI project along with Wickman and UMMS Professor Emeritus Roger Wiggins. Wickman connected Zhong with Gipson because their research interests are similar.

“We’ve hosted visitors for a few days or sometimes a few weeks, but never for a year,” said Gipson, MD, MS. “We loved having Xihui here. It was quite special that PKU released her from her local duties for a year, because she is a highly skilled nephrologist. Even though she was here to learn, she was also able to share her skills and perspectives with us. We learned a great deal, too.”

Gipson helped Zhong develop a research project leveraging a new multi-site registry of Chinese children diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a prevalent kidney disease associated with progressive loss of kidney function. The registry is collecting patient data across 28 different clinic sites for future study.

“The project has come a long way in 10 months. We’re just beginning to work on the analysis,” said Zhong. “The idea is that we will be able to follow patients to see how they respond to different treatments.”

The project also set the groundwork for future joint research projects, now that the registry and database is up and running. One day each week, Zhong spent time in clinic with Dr. Wickman, learning about pre- and post-procedure treatment of children who’ve undergone kidney transplantation, which is on the rise in China.

“While she did not participate in the treatment of patients at Michigan, she is very advanced and was active in the patient discussion meetings with our team here,” said Wickman. “How things are done at PKU is sometimes very different, so we learned from one another.”

Zhong, a mother of two young boys, returned back home to her family, friends and First Hospital position in December.

“To spend a year away from home, you need to make it a meaningful and valuable experience,” she said. “I was a bit nervous because it’s a totally different environment, but everyone has been so generous and willing to help me.”