"Just Talk." Ara V. Vehian, MD, Dives into the SAHZU Rotation

Dr. Vehian, right, at SAHZU.
Dr. Vehian, right, at SAHZU.

The first day of my rotation at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Zheijang University (SAHZU) in Hangzhou, China started with Grand Rounds, as it did every morning. It was conducted entirely in Mandarin, as expected. Fortunately, I was seated next to a resident, Dr. Chen, who spoke enough English to quietly translate so that I wasn’t completely lost. As I was sitting there, wearing my floral skull cap and wondering what the next month would entail, I was handed a microphone. Nearly 100 residents and attendings turned their faces toward me, waiting. Dr. Chen looked at me with a big smile and said, “They want you to talk.” “Talk about what?” I said. “Just talk,” he said. So I talked. And I told them how excited I was to be there, what a great opportunity it was, and how fortunate I was that UCLA allowed me to combine my two passions - travel and medicine - into an unforgettable rotation.

For four weeks, I went to Grand Rounds every morning. Nearly every day, the microphone was handed to me, requesting my opinion on different topics in anesthesia, specifically focusing on our practice at UCLA. My presentation at the end of the rotation on pediatric anesthesia was broadcast to over 15 hospitals.

It was fascinating to see anesthesia practice in Hangzhou. At over 3200 patient beds with a surgical volume of more than 100,000 cases per year, efficiency was a hallmark. Central lines and arterial lines are placed in a preparation room prior to surgery. All patients are sent to PACU intubated. The operating room beds have wheels attached, which makes transfer to ICU less cumbersome.

Hangzhou is a scenic city, an apposition of the contemporary and the traditional. The high-speed train will take you to Shanghai in under an hour, travelling at more than 300km/hr, while just fifteen minutes from the hospital you’ll find yourself in the West Lake area surrounded by pagodas and old temples against a hilly backdrop. The food in Hangzhou is renowned as one of the best cuisines in China.

The faculty at SAHZU were as eager for me to learn and appreciate Chinese culture as they were for me to practice anesthesia. I was encouraged to take trips on the weekends. I travelled to breathtaking Huangshan in the Anhui region (my legs are still sore) and went to Shanghai twice. This was my fifth time in China, and after spending four weeks, I finally was able to pick up some of the language basics. Of course, I still depended on Dr. Google Translate and my co-residents Dr. Chen and Dr. Wu, without whom I would probably have been ordering duck tongue at the cafeteria, unintentionally.

This was a valuable experience for me; I grew as a person and as a physician. I would highly recommend this rotation to future residents.