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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

New Pitt, Tsinghua University Education Program Will Bring Chinese Students to Pittsburgh for Biomedical Research Training


PITTSBURGH, May 3, 2011 – The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Tsinghua University School of Medicine in Beijing have entered into a first-of-its-kind collaborative education and research agreement to bring Chinese medical and graduate students to Pittsburgh for training in biomedical research. The agreement was signed by officials of both universities on April 24 in Beijing.

For each academic year beginning in 2013, Tsinghua University will send between 25 and 45 students to Pitt for two years as visiting research scholars. They also will have opportunities to observe health care activities at UPMC, Pitt’s clinical partner. The students will already have completed three-and-a-half years of university education in China.  

“Our purpose is to teach all our students to become skilled and compassionate physicians and researchers who have the knowledge and drive to improve the health and well-being of their communities locally, nationally and globally,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh. “This unique program will give Tsinghua University students the opportunity to receive rigorous training in cutting-edge biomedical research and build relationships that will foster their development as physicians and scientists.”

Tsinghua University, which began as a preparatory school for students chosen to study in the United States, celebrated its 100th anniversary on the same day as the signing ceremony. It has nearly 26,000 students and more than 7,000 faculty in 14 schools and 56 departments. Dubbed the “Chinese MIT,” it is renowned for excellence in its science and engineering programs and now is working to create a world-class medical school, said Yigong Shi, Ph.D., dean of the School of Life Sciences and senior vice dean of the School of Medicine.

“Like the University of Pittsburgh, we aim to train physicians and scientists,” he said. “We established an experimental, eight-year course of study that enrolls approximately 45 students per year, with half in medicine and half in pharmaceutical science. Tsinghua University is highly regarded throughout Asia, and I believe our collaboration will bring the University of Pittsburgh much wider recognition in China. I look forward to opening a new chapter in the history of both universities.”

Tsinghua University has 155 research institutes, including national laboratories and engineering research centers; and its faculty won 377 national scientific and technological awards by the end of 2008, putting the institution in the top tier of Chinese universities. That year, Dr. Shi, who completed his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University and rose through the academic ranks at Princeton University to become a widely renowned researcher, turned down a position as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator to return to a leadership role at Tsinghua University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in biology and mathematics.

At Pitt, the new education program will be guided by Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., who will leave the directorship of the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the end of June to become associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning. Dr. Berg was Dr. Shi’s thesis advisor at Hopkins.

While the focus of this collaboration is on the students, faculty will be able to apply to spend up to a year at the other institution as a visiting scholar to conduct projects in a host laboratory. This endeavor will expand scholarly ties and facilitate academic, scientific and cultural exchanges between the institutions and comes at a time of increased activity by the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC in China more generally.

An annual research symposium, intended to build relationships and educate each site about the other’s work, will be held in alternating years at each university.

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About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation’s leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1997.

Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region’s economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see

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