When he was invited to visit China at the end of last year, O’Holleran braced himself for something different. Despite dramatic changes, the country continues to be ruled by the Communist Party.
“I expected much more of a closed feeling,” he admits.
The Party continues to dominate, he discovered, but with individuals allowed a remarkable level of freedom and even wealth.
Shanghai, for example, is China’s most Western city, and with its Coca Cola signs and Apple stores it offers an atmosphere not dissimilar to New York, he says. “In the circles where I was traveling, the people were very welcoming because I was there to help train them. ... The Chinese people are wonderful people. Very wonderful.”
Most of his time was spent in hospitals, facilities he found to be clean and modern with sophisticated equipment. On the other hand, he suspects these were the best Chinese hospitals. “I did not spend any time in the rural areas,” he says.
Much of what he saw of China was from the window of a vehicle moving from one city to another, including Shanghai, Beijing, Ningbo, Nanjing and Hangzhou. But, one can learn a lot just looking out the window. He saw a China that thrives, that uses everything — every field, every building. Unfortunately, a byproduct of that dynamism literally obscures the view from the window.
”The air pollution is evident,” says O’Holleran. “Visibility is very low. It’s clearly a problem.”
While O’Holleran was sharing American technical advances, he was also learning from his hosts about their techniques and the way they deal with patients. “It was a cultural exchange,” he says. “There’s always a sense in the academic community that everyone is always learning.”
His Chinese colleagues were attentive, even enthusiastic. “There’s great respect in that country for American medicine.” (English was understood so widely in the regions O’Holleran visited that only occasionally did the American doctor require a translator.)