Tsinghua–Pitt Biomedical Partnership Celebrates Its First Class of Graduates

A global partnership connecting the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with the top science and technology university in China reached an important milestone on June 26.

On that day, 13 Chinese students who had spent two years in Pittsburgh as part of Pitt’s Tsinghua Scholars Program graduated from the Tsinghua University School of Medicine in Beijing with MD or PhD degrees. They are the first Pitt–Tsinghua Scholars to do so.

The partnership between the universities began in 2012 with an aim to elevate the training of Chinese physician-scientists. The Tsinghua medical students undergo a rigorous, two-year biomedical research training program in Pittsburgh.

Yigong Shi, the vice president of Tsinghua University who left an endowed professorship at Princeton University to return to his native China in 2008, explained the rationale for the program: “The traditional teaching method in China emphasizes passive listening and memorization. Students seldom raise critical questions and comments. I have been advocating for active learning in the classroom ever since I returned to China.”

The agreement between Pitt and Tsinghua University was recently renewed for a second five-year term. The Tsinghua Scholars program currently has 25 active scholars on Pitt’s campus, where they work in the laboratories of some of Pitt’s most accomplished biomedical researchers. To date, 44 Pitt faculty members have participated as mentors, and 67 scholars have come to Pitt to study.

Pitt–Tsinghua Partnership by the Numbers
Current Tsinghua Scholars at Pitt 25
Pitt faculty participants 44
Total Tsinghua students who have studied at Pitt 67
Peer-reviewed papers co-authored by Tsinghua Scholars 70+
Posters and presentations at local and national meetings 100+

Since the program’s inception, Tsinghua Scholars have been co-authors on more than 70 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and have given more than 100 oral and poster presentations at local and national scientific meetings.

Building on the success of the program, the two medical schools are considering the formation of a combined MD/PhD program, which would be modeled after the Medical Scientist Training Program at Pitt and other U.S. medical schools. If implemented, it would be China’s first such dual-degree program.

Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, recorded a congratulatory message for the new graduates.