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Medicine without borders: American doctor's dedication to Hainan

ehainan.gov.cn | Updated: 2021-06-23

In 2013, at the recommendation of a friend from South China's Hainan province, Timothy Noel Stephens gave up a high-paying job in the US and chose to work at the general medicine department of Haikou People's Hospital as a foreign doctor.

During his eight years living and working in Hainan, the general practitioner has turned his love of China and Hainan into dedication to his work.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Timothy's clinic is always jam-packed with patients, who come for his knowledge, meticulousness and patience.

In his view, good communication not only ensures a doctor can understand the patient's physical condition and meet their individual needs, but also allows the patient to actively participate in their own treatment plan.

In the US, unless it is an emergency or other critical condition, people will initially go to their general practitioner if they feel sick, rather than to going to the hospital.

Timothy graduated from the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas in the United States in 2005, and completed his family medicine residency training at Tufts University in 2008. Later, he worked in family medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In his eyes, general practitioners can go deep into people's lives, offer personalized diagnosis and treatment, and reduce the burden of medical treatment. They are the "gatekeepers" of patients' health. 

In addition to offering Hainan patients high-level general medical and health services, Timothy brought standardized training sessions for general practitioners across Hainan. 

In recent years, the general practitioners he trained have gone into grassroots health centers in Ledong, Danzhou and other cities and counties in Hainan, and made a big difference to local healthcare. 

When asked why he doesn't choose to stay in a big city in China, where there are good platforms and development opportunities, Timothy explained that he and his family love Hainan's beautiful natural scenery and folk customs, as well as the province's openness and inclusiveness. 

During his eight years, his family has become bigger and bigger following the birth of his two sons. In Timothy's eyes, the South China province of Hainan has witnessed substantial changes over the past few years, including the easy access to a growing number of duty-free shops and imported products, which were quite limited in quantity a couple of years ago.

As the construction of the Hainan Free Trade Port accelerates, more foreigners are coming to Hainan for opportunities and Timothy, who has become the director of his department, spoke highly of the island province's inclusiveness towards new talents.

Hainan is becoming an increasingly international place and Timothy hopes to play his role in the construction of the Hainan FTP. He hopes to build a bridge between Hainan and the outside world, creating opportunities for grassroots general practitioners to learn and introduce more international medical talents to Hainan to improve local medical services.