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Cedars-Sinai Blog

U.S. – China Healthcare Diplomacy

Heitham T. Hassoun, MD, VP & Medical Director, Cedars-Sinai International

Heitham T. Hassoun, MD

This is an exciting time for Cedars-Sinai's international efforts, as the medical center is embarking on a new initiative called Healthcare Diplomacy.

As the name implies, Healthcare Diplomacy builds on the idea of working across borders to find common ground, build friendships and improve lives around the world by focusing on educating and creating opportunities around health. To ensure the success of this new venture, Cedars-Sinai has partnered with the Pacific Council on International Policy, another Los Angeles-based institution with a mission that is both local and global.

"The Pacific Council is a natural partner to help Cedars-Sinai develop its role on the world stage and foster Healthcare Diplomacy," says Dr. Heitham T. Hassoun, vice president and medical director of International at Cedars-Sinai. The nonprofit institution facilitates dialogue between people from a range of industries and sectors, and its members share a commitment to global engagement. "The Pacific Council community not only has expertise in international affairs, it shares Cedars-Sinai's belief that exchanging medical knowledge and caring for patients, no matter where they're located, can help bridge gaps between countries."

Dr. Jerrold D. Green, president and CEO of the Pacific Council, agrees. "Los Angeles is a major global hub, especially in the Latin America Asia-Pacific region, and Cedars-Sinai is one of that region's important institutions," he says. "Healthcare is inherently international. As a global city with such an important geographic position, Los Angeles has a duty to lead the world in business, healthcare and diplomacy, and indeed it is with leaders like Cedars-Sinai based here."

Arthur J. Ochoa, JD, senior vice of Advancement at Cedars-Sinai

Arthur J. Ochoa, JD

"Cedars-Sinai treats patients regardless of their ethnicity, their background or their nationality," says Arthur J. Ochoa, JD, senior vice president of Advancement at Cedars-Sinai and a member of the Pacific Council's Board of Directors. "It's both a reflection of, and an obligation to, our wonderfully diverse community in Los Angeles."

To support the initiative, the medical center has launched a Healthcare Diplomacy Webinar Series, which began in September with a meeting on "U.S.-China Relations: Today and Tomorrow." Panelists included Ochoa, Dr. Hassoun and Dr. Green, along with Dr. Yawei Kong, managing director of Asia operations at Cedars-Sinai.

They discussed the geopolitical challenges between the U.S. and China, as well as opportunities for the countries to cooperate. COVID-19 was an important topic. "The coronavirus has presented an opportunity to come together in a common goal," says Dr. Kong. "China and the U.S. both want to defeat the pandemic and promote the health of their populations."
Other areas for cooperation include building hospitals, exchanging doctors, developing cross-border video visits and facilitating international patient referrals. "We have already started some of these projects in China, and look forward to more," says Dr. Hassoun.

He noted that political rivals have collaborated in medicine before, with great success. "During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union worked together to fight smallpox," he says. "Medicine is based on a simple and fundamental truth: We are all more alike than not."

More on the International Patient program at Cedars-Sinai