Straight from the heart

By Liu Xiangrui(China Daily)
Updated: 2017-04-21 09:12:16

Gregg Stone, professor of medicine at Columbia university College of Physicians and Surgeons. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Gregg Stone, a cardiologist from the United States, has been working along with his Chinese peers to help people with heart diseases in China.

Stone, 60, is a professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and serves as the director of cardiovascular research and education at the Center for Interventional Vascular Therapy at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

As a specialist in interventional cardiology that deals with catheters, he has worked on many clinical trials.

His association with China began nearly 20 years ago, when he met Gao Runlin, an expert on interventional cardiology from the government-run Fuwai Hospital in Beijing.

At the time, this field was new in the country-with few procedures conducted here. Stone and Gao worked together to bring new medical techniques to China and train physicians.

"We talked about the need for regional training centers, large educational programs and government-invested laboratories to spread the techniques," says Stone.

After Gao launched an annual event called China Interventional Therapeutics in 2002, Stone worked with him to expand its influence, including establishing a partnership with Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics, a global conference sponsored by New York-based Cardiovascular Research Foundation, of which Stone is the vice-chairman.

The Chinese event, which includes lectures and live broadcasts of surgeries related to heart diseases, has become a gathering that is attended by 8,000 medical professionals every year.

"It appeals to both young doctors and the very experienced ones," Stone says.

Gregg Stone visits the Nanjing No 1 Hospital in December. He says he's surprised by the advances of China's healthcare industry over a short period of time. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Over the years, such collaborations have expanded to hospitals in Beijing, Nanjing, Shenzhen and other cities. Stone is also involved in promoting China's medical progress in the world.

After Chinese doctor Chen Shaoliang and his team from Nanjing No 1 Hospital developed a technique called the "DK Crush", which is said to significantly enhance the quality of treatment for a disease in the coronary artery, Stone actively helped them to promote the method internationally.

The technique was displayed at two important international medical conferences, including the 2011 Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics, which helped it gain wider recognition.

Stone is also helping Chen do international collaborative research to prove that a separate method developed by Chen to treat pulmonary hypertension is effective, before it can be adopted worldwide.

According to Chen, Stone has helped the Nanjing hospital in Jiangsu province, develop its cardiovascular medicine department further.

Besides coming to China for research, meetings and to train doctors almost every year-sometimes at his own cost-Stone has also accepted several cardiologists from the hospital for training at his hospital in the US.

"He is very patient while answering questions from Chinese doctors," says Chen. "As a foreign expert, he has served selflessly...we value his work very much."

In 2015, the Nanjing No 1 Hospital and New York-Presbyterian Hospital jointly established a research institute on heart diseases in Nanjing. The ground work included a series of collaborative plans.

Chinese doctor Chen Shaoliang from Nanjing No 1 Hospital meets Stone and his wife in Nanjing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Stone says he is surprised by the advances made in medicine by China over a short period of time.

"What's been accomplished in the past 15 years is that the research coming out of China is now being applied to the whole world," he says.

"Initially it was us trying to help China, but now China is working to help us and the rest of the world," he adds.

Stone received the Friendship Award in 2016.

The award is the highest honor given by the Chinese government to foreigners who have made significant contribution to the country's social and economic development.

"I am very proud if I have played a small role in contributing to the health of people in China. I hope that opportunity will continue, because there is more work to be done."

He has also been invited as a high-level expert to give his own suggestions to the Chinese government for the country's medical development.

While China has established many hospitals and laboratories with good facilities, he says more doctors need to be trained to make the sector better able to deliver medical care.

"In a country with such a large population, medical care can be very hard to be delivered consistently. But I think we are on our way to doing it," he says, adding that in the next decade, hospitals in the big cities will need to spread the lessons they have learned to smaller places for the entire country to benefit.

Stone got interested in medicine as a teenager, after he volunteered to transport patients in wheelchairs at a hospital.

"Medicine allows me to express my deep interest in science and in solving problems. And now it is helping other people," he says.

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