The mission of the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center isn’t confined to the borders of North America. Executive Director Dr. David Roye and his team of CP experts have organized multiple medical missions throughout Asia in 2016 to spread the Center’s care philosophy and understanding about Cerebral Palsy and related disabilities. Their destinations: Japan and China.
In August, Dr. Roye and a team of Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers and physical therapists traveled throughout Japan to share the latest research on cerebral palsy. The team included Hiroko Matsumoto, Director of Research at the CP Center; Dr. Heakyung Kim, A. David Gurewitsch Professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics at CUMC; John Tunney, orthotist at the CP Center; and Dr. Debra Clayton-Krasinski, Deputy Department Chair of CUMC Physical Therapy. This was a relatively new mission trip since Dr. Roye and his team had to wait years to be invited. The trip was made possible by Matsumoto, whose sway in the Japanese medical community helped provide access to these healthcare facilities.
“This trip would not have happened were it not for the Matsumoto family who used their considerable influence, relationships, logistical skills, and amazing work ethic to bring this successful trip together,” said Dr. Roye.
The team participated in and hosted conferences and workshops at Morioka Children’s Hospital, Nikoniko House Medical and Welfare Center in Kobe, Iwate Medical University, and Morinomiya Hospital Osaka. Working together with their Japanese colleagues, they trained Japanese medical professionals in patient-centered care, medical care based on evidence, spasticity treatment, pain management, evaluation and timing for spine and hip intervention, rehabilitation methods, botox treatment, and orthopedic surgery methods. The team also took time to see patients at multiple hospitals, making team rounds to see children and young adults. Besides sharing research at conferences and treating patients, the other goal for the trip was to help change the culture surrounding disability in Japan.
“In Japan, there’s a stigma attached with disability,” said Dr. Roye. “We’re attempting to improve the culture of care there.”
Although it ended a day early because of a typhoon, the trip was a success with more than 300 participants attending the workshops and lectures. The team will return this summer.
Although he’s been practicing medicine abroad since 1983, Dr. Roye has focused the last 20 years on treating patients and educating health leaders and professionals in China through two foundations: International Healthcare Leadership (IHL), which provides evidence-based management tools and public health best practices to Chinese healthcare professionals, and Children of China Pediatrics Foundation (CCPF), which provides surgical services to Chinese orphans and indignant children. He has worked in twelve Chinese cities, mainly in secondary hospitals, and, besides treating patients, he also helps to improve the pediatric surgical infrastructure.
“I recognized that the hospitals I was working in were very poorly managed and I knew that if I could do something about that that would have more impact on access, patient safety, and improved outcomes than my own work would,” said Dr. Roye.
Once or twice a year, he’s joined by a large team from the U.S., including Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center Associate Director Dr. Joshua Hyman. In November, Dr. Roye and his team from CCPF traveled to Nanjing and Shanghai. The children they treat have a range of disabilities and some of them have CP. Dr. Roye is currently developing a new CP unit in Shanghai with his Chinese colleagues.
“The CP unit will be 60 beds, which is about the size of a children’s hospital here,” said Dr. Roye.
In addition, at least four colleagues from China are invited over in a fellowship exchange for a month every summer. These colleagues spend time with Columbia providers in their offices and spend time in the operating room. The three-week course at Columbia is in conjunction with the Mailman School of Public Health.
“It’s a terrific opportunity to get to know each other better and have a really interesting exchange of ideas and information,” said Dr. Hyman. “It’s not enough just to go over and offer treatment for a week. We must make certain that what we’re doing actually is a benefit and if issues do arise they can be recognized and addressed.”
Dr. Roye sees providing global medicine as an obligation to export U.S. medical education. In 2014 alone, Dr. Roye was in China six times providing clinical care, teaching, management, and hospital consulting. Even after leaving China, he still engages with patients and healthcare professionals. Through IHL, he conducts online Fireside Chats, which are Sino-U.S. Physician panels that cover a topical subject in global health and are held at CUMC. He’s also available on popular Chinese social media sites such as WeChat and Weibo to stay in touch with patients and check on their progress. If there are any complications, he knows who to contact in China.
“It’s become a big part of my life, a very rewarding part of my life too,” said Dr. Roye. “I really do enjoy the work.”