Is Taiwan suffering from a shortage of doctors, or rather, a disparate distribution of it? TCU and Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital held the Fifth Annual Tzu Chi Medical Education Conference on December 19, inviting medical experts from the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHW), National Taiwan University (NTU), Chang Gung University (CGU), National Cheng Kung University, Tzu Chi Medical Mission and Education Mission, to share their view on the development trend of contemporary medical care and medical education.
The conference, a major annual event in the field of medicine, had attracted over 200 doctors, scholars and students to attend. Lin Pi-Yu, the vice CEO of Tzu Chi Foundation, Lin Chin-Lon, the CEO of Tzu Chi Medical Mission, and Wang Pen-Jung, the president of Tzu Chi University welcomed the attendees during the opening address. The first presentation is on “the contemporary medical policies of Taiwan” by Lin Tzou-Yien, the political deputy minister of the MoHW.
The critical issue that Taiwan’s medical community is facing at the moment is the various disparate distribution of professionals, Lin Tzou-Yien pointed out. It includes the disparate distribution between urban and rural regions, among divisions (drought in the five major divisions), and in hierarchy (attending and resident doctors). To eliminate the disparity in division, the MoHW prepared to launch a publicly funded training programs for doctors in key divisions in 2016. The program is estimated to train 500 publicly funded doctors in medicine, surgery, gynecology, pediatrics and emergency in five years period. The doctors graduated from the program will be assigned by the MoHW to regional medical facilities or rural clinics that are in shortage of doctors for a mandatory period of six years. Academic institutions that have been selected in the program include TCU, NTU, CGU, National Medical Defense Center, National Yang Ming University, and Kaohsiung Medical University. The key to eliminating the disparity lies in the attitudes of the doctors, and therefore it is vital for all doctors never to forget why they practice medicine in the first place, Lin Tzou-Yien concluded.
Aside from the government attempts to eliminate the drought in the five major divisions of medicine, the fundamental solution lies in the doctors: these medical practitioners must be willing to render their services where they are urgently needed. Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, for example, overcame medical drought in the Eastern Taiwan during its initial stage by cooperating with NTU, to invite the assistance of attending and resident physicians at NTU, until the drought was alleviated in 1994, after the founding of Tzu Chi medical college. Many TCU graduates stayed in the East voluntarily, president Wang of TCU pointed out, and over 40% of them chose the five major divisions. The humanities education of TCU is the deciding factor, he believes, like the silent mentors who inspired their mission as medical professionals, and simulation surgeries that facilitate their interests in surgery.
Chen Peir-Rong, the vice superintendent of Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, discussed “the application of silent mentors in the training of surgical specialists”. Simulation surgery on silent mentors grants an opportunity for doctors to practice and provide innovative surgeries, he said. After TIMA (Tzu Chi International Medical Association) collaborated with Taiwan Urological Association, Taiwan Society of Plastic Surgery, and Taiwan Society of Emergency Medicine in 2009, every subsequent year a new association of different field joined to practice complex and innovative surgeries on silent mentors. A doctor from Mackay Memorial Hospital Taitung Branch shared his thoughts after joining a simulation surgery, “I have received a lecture on medical skills and humanities, and I will continue my service in the ENT division with gratitude and appreciation.”
The conference also held a poster exhibition and three forums in the afternoon. The topics of each forum were “The Status and Prospect of Cross-strait Public Health Education”, “Pre-graduation Innovative Interdisciplinary Education Model”, and “The Application, Quality Control and Related Regulations on Point-of-care Testing”, covering vitals issues like public health, nursing, physical therapy and medical testing.
Yang Jen-Hung, the dean of Tzu Chi College of Medicine, revealed his wishes to increase dialogues across medical education, research, humanities, health care, and other disciplines. “Medicine is the safeguard of life, and education is the safeguard of wisdom,” Yang Jen-Hung emphasized. Through the annual conference, he wishes to a facilitate multilevel cooperation between academia and hospitals, and join forces to save lives with love.