A medical team led by a Payson doctor has improved life on the other side of the world.
Network for Exchange and Teaching, or NET, has twice toured China, taking doctors and nurses to demonstrate perinatal procedures. It has also left supplies and equipment."We might never get asked to lecture in front of prestigious medical groups in the U.S., but our techniques are advanced compared to those used in China," said Dr. Robert Clark, NET founder. "We can go over and see that we are really making a difference."
A California native, Clark served an LDS mission to Hong Kong, then attended Brigham Young University to concentrate on Asian studies. When he entered medical school, it looked as if he was leaving the Far East far behind.
"I always wanted to combine my interests, and then I visited China by myself in 1985 and realized there really wasn't much of an exchange going on in medicine," he said. "The government may invite a few speakers in, and there are a few programs for doctors who can donate a year or two in a foreign country, but there wasn't much available for the average doctor who wanted to help."
Clark created NET to work with other health organizations in Third World countries, to exchange physicians and to send teaching teams to share skills and ideas. The first group visited China in 1986. The second went for two weeks this spring. Both groups have featured family practitioners.
"In May, we took four doctors, one nurse and two administrators. We were limited by space and interpreters.
"We presented lectures to various groups at Sun Yat-sen Medical Center in Guang Zhou, but we spent the main part of our time at Xiamen. We had a full program of lectures and skill-oriented workshops. We taught neo-natal resuscitation and even delivered a baby as a demonstration."
Clark said the group also left $10,000 worth of drugs and equipment, most of it donated and some bought at cost from a medical charity group.
They helped train personnel in one Chinese hospital learn to use their first fetal heart monitor.
"At Mountain View Hospital (in Payson), every maternity patient has a fetal heart monitor. That hospital was excited to have one machine."
Medical differences between the United States and China go beyond technology, Clark said.
"People in China's rural areas are a little suspicious of modern medicine, so there is a trend to combine the old herbalism with modern treatment. But the younger population accepts advances more easily, and it is a very young country."
Since 1949, the average life expectancy has risen from about 35 to about 65, Clark said.
Infant mortality rate is relatively low too, he said.
"The U.S. loses about 10 to 12 babies per thousand, and China loses about 40 per thousand. That is very good for a developing country."
Clark said the last Chinese doctor to visit Mountain View as part of a NET exchange was surprised how much time doctors spent explaining things to patients. "I guess doctors used to a socialist system are used to being more authoritative, just as U.S. doctors were 40 years ago."