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Witnessing China's transformation: American Dr. Nathan Congdon


02-22-2015 12:53 BJT

At the end of 2014, over 700 thousand foreigners were living in China. Many of them now feel an integral part of the Chinese dream....witnessing, experiencing and indeed contributing to China's development. Today let's meet an American doctor who's been living here for the last 10 years... but first came to China more than three decades ago.

Dr. Nathan Congdon works at Sun Yat-sen University Hospital, in Guangzhou. He's known to many by his Chinese name - Kang Nan.

"I can't deny that I'm still an American, but I will spend most of my life here in China," Congdon said.

He studied Chinese at high-school back in the 1970s...... and in 1983, he came to Beijing for the first time.

"Lots of people on bicycles, looking like a blue human river. I was also riding a bicycle, dressed the same as the local Chinese. I didn't feel like a foreigner, I had a sense of belonging," Congdon said.

He later received his Masters degree from Cambridge, in Oriental languages and literature.  He's fluent in written and spoken Chinese and has maintained a life-long interest in Chinese culture -- an interest that he now pursues by practicing medicine.

"I think being a doctor is the best choice, I am part of the society here. There is no conflict. We all have the same goal," Congdon said.

After more than 10 years of studying in the United States, Dr Congdon gained an ophthalmology residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute in the US.

In 2006, he returned to China to become Professor of Preventive Ophthalmology at Sun Yat-sen University Hospital, the country's largest eye hospital.

It wasn't a straightforward transition.

"There's very little respect for doctors here, a lack of admiration, lack of trust. This lack of faith is growing. It's a challenge to be a doctor here. Patients are not satisfied, not comfortable, unhappy and then they complain. It's more problematic than America," Congdon said.

"One of the reasons is that patients are afraid they're being over charged or ripped off. Lack of communication. It's certainly an issue. Not only in China, but also in America."

In the past 10 years, he's witnessed the many changes in public healthcare in China. He's also taken part in a scheme to provide free medical care in rural areas.

Another major focus of his work is training China's next generation of eye doctors.It's a job he greatly enjoys... as much as his love and fascination for the country he now calls home.

In his house, are two faded pictures... snapshots from a different era, frozen in time.

"I like these two paintings in particular - 'Serve The Farmers'. I value that philosophy a lot," Congdon said.

It's a philosophy that he takes to work with him every day.

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