Yale University’s relationship with China is an old and storied one, with roots dating to the 1830s, when Yale graduates began traveling to China to perform missionary work. Today, this relationship is strong and multifaceted, and it continues to grow: among the newest Yale-China initiatives is a joint program with Shanghai’s Fudan University focused on mental health education and professional development.

In January and February, seven Chinese leaders in psychiatric care and policy traveled to New Haven to enhance their professional development as part of a new program designed by the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute (GHLI). A three-week conference, the Yale GHLI-Fudan Mental Health Program is a forum for Chinese psychiatrists to learn current best practices in psychiatric treatment and to improve their leadership and management skills.

The program included lectures, seminars, panel discussions, hands-on learning exercises, and site visits to treatment facilities and recovery programs throughout Connecticut for people with psychiatric illnesses and addictions. Topics covered in the various sessions included research practices and methodologies, ethics, paths to publication, workforce restructuring and expansion, and the relationship of law to mental health policy, among others.

Yale and Fudan University are no strangers: the relationship dates back to 1905, when Li Denghui, of the Yale College Class of 1899, became Fudan’s first director of studies, and, subsequently, the university’s first president. In 2003 the two universities launched the Shanghai-based Fudan-Yale Biomedical Research Center, whose mission is to conduct research on the molecular causes of human diseases.

Martha Dale, M.P.H., GHLI’s director of China Programs, says the GHLI-Fudan Mental Health Program benefits not only the participants but also the broader Yale-Fudan University relationship. “This program is a trial of a relationship with Fudan University for health care leadership education. Our hope is that it will create a new venue for relationship-building and collaboration on health care leadership and systems strengthening. It’s a mutually beneficial program in that sense.”

Elizabeth H. Bradley, Ph.D., professor of public health and GHLI’s faculty director, says, “One goal of the program is to start to build the relationships necessary to work with China to improve the quality and capacity of the [Chinese] mental health system.”