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By Pedro Gallardo ’19

“Está en chino (“it’s in Chinese”). This is a common expression in Spanish used to describe situations in which you don’t understand anything. The expression that I grew up saying quite perfectly described my situation upon arriving at my nine-week fellowship at the Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ZJCDC) in Hangzhou, China. Granted, this was partly due to the fact that most of my conversations with co-workers were literally in Chinese. But more importantly, this was my first time working in public health, let alone in China ­– I was in way over my head.

My project at the ZJCDC involved researching avoidable admissions in a county in Zhejiang Province; more specifically, I researched diabetes- and hypertension-related hospitalizations and their associated costs. Work often involved trips to municipal CDCs and rural community health centers across the southeastern Chinese province, which provided a broad overview of the Chinese healthcare system. 

Aside from these trips, I was surprised to find that much of my learning actually occurred outside of my 8:30–5 work schedule. Conversations with taxi drivers, invitations to coworker’s children’s birthday parties, and solo weekend trips around China (made possible by the SIG stipend) taught me a great deal about Chinese lifestyles. Given that lifestyle choices are very important risk factors for diabetes and hypertension, these insights were invaluable.

As I enter my ninth and final week at this fellowship, I am immeasurably grateful for this singular opportunity with which SIG provided me. Now a future investigating Chinese public health no longer seems en chino.”

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