WA China Watch Digest Special!

Interview: Mark Wen on Seattle Children's Hospital and its new alliance in China

Mark Wen in Beijing, Nov. 2015By Wen Liu   Jan. 7, 2016

Seattle Children’s Hospital is the pediatric medical center of the region that includes Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho and ranked 6th in the top ten children’s hospitals in the U.S. That, however, is not enough. Children’s is going to China. Heading that effort is Mark Wen (温志刚), its new Vice President & Director for Global Business Development & International Medical Services since Jan. 2015. Mark, one success story among the China-born Chinese Americans in the Seattle area, was previously the Director of International Marketing at the Port of Seattle. By moving to the Children’s, Mark in fact returned to the health industry he had been in before. Last November, Mark and two of his colleagues from the Children’s visited Beijing and engaged in a number of events with local medical institutions. What did they do? What is Children’s up to in China? Let’s find out.

WCWD: I read in the Chinese media that you and two of your colleagues, Dr. Samuel Browd and Dr. Susan Apkon, were in Beijing last November, and that your group held meetings with United Family Hospital there about an alliance. Could you tell us more about the visit?

Mark Wen: Seattle Children’s has been providing medical care to patients worldwide from more than 70 countries. In the last few years, we have seen more and more patients from China. Our trip to China and our alliance with Beijing United Family Hospital (UFH) is part of our China Strategy to provide complicated medical care to Chinese children. We are in the process of establishing medical services referral and exchange program with UFH in China.

WCWD: How did the idea of this alliance come about? Did United Family Hospital reach out to Seattle Children’s or did Seattle Children’s reach out to UFH?

Mark Wen: UFH is one of the best managed, foreign invested private hospitals in China. We are a good match on our mission and our commitment. We reached out to them and they invited us to establish a long term cooperation relationship.

WCWD: What exactly is the alliance about, as I read that United Family Hospital in Beijing would send their patients to Seattle Children’s for operations and then return to China for rehabilitation?

Mark Wen with colleagues in Beijing. Source: pconline.cnMark Wen: This is related to our joint program of offering SDR surgery to Chinese children. Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery is a procedure that treats muscle spasticity caused by abnormal communication among the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. Spasticity most commonly affects patients who have cerebral palsy.

Beijing UFH has a brand-new rehabilitation hospital. But it does not have the SDR surgery capacity. To cure kids with cerebral palsy, surgery is only part of the process. Rehabilitation is very important before and after surgery. The cost of this rehabilitation in the U.S. is very expensive, up to $200,000 to $400,000. However, the surgical cost is relatively low. By partnering between Seattle Children's and Beijing UFH, we can make this complicated medical service affordable to Chinese families.

WCWD: When did Seattle Children’s first enter China and does it work with other hospitals or medical institutions in China besides United Family Hospital?

Mark Wen: We first entered China five years ago. We have established many mutual cooperation and patient referral relationships with top pediatric hospitals all over China.

WCWD: How important is the China market in the overall development of Seattle Children’s international medical services? Is it the largest or fastest growing market?

Mark Wen: No. But the China market has great potential and future for us in the long run. It is steadily growing. Relations need to be built. And we are building long-term relationships with many hospitals in China. We are also engaging in medical education and joint research on clinical trials. We have Chinese physicians as visiting scholars at Children’s from our Chinese partner hospitals regularly.

Right now, there may be people with a lot of money in China, very few have been able to hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to see a doctor here. However, with international medical insurance developing fast in China, we will soon see people from China with the insurance seeking medical treatment in the United States.

(For more information on major events in Washington state-China relations, go to WA China Chronicle.)