U celebrates bond with South Korea

Jerret Raffety

Representatives of the University’s Medical School and Seoul (South Korea) National University’s College of Medicine reminisced about the past and looked toward the future Monday at the McNamara alumni center.

The event celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the universities’ partnership to repair the South Korean educational system after the Korean War.

Former and current deans, professors, directors and the wife of the South Korean ambassador to the United States spoke at the event about several topics, such as stem cell research and ethics.

Former Medical School Dean Neil Gault said that the partnership began in 1954, when the U.S. government asked the University of Minnesota to join an educational aid project at Seoul National University. The program lasted seven years, he said.

“Everything (of the South Korean curriculums) was either out of date or destroyed,” Gault said.

At the time, Gault worked to accustom Korean students arriving in the United States and later consulted in South Korea for two years, he said.

For helping develop the program, Gault received an exceptional service award from the Academic Health Center at the event.

Gault said that the partnership only happened because South Koreans wanted to improve its educational system.

“If they hadn’t wanted to make the change, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The partnership worked, said Phillip Peterson, director of the International Medical Education and Research Program.

Peterson said that in the seven years of the partnership, 77 South Korean pupils came to learn at the University of Minnesota, while 11 University of Minnesota instructors traveled to South Korea.

This program played a very key role toward establishing a premier school of medicine, nursing, agriculture, engineering, public administration and veterinary medicine at Seoul National University, he said.

Stem cell research is the new frontier of medicine, and neither university would be where it is in its research without this collaboration, Peterson said.

In the spring of 2002, alumni of the original exchange program at both universities began funding a new series of exchange programs, Peterson said.

Susan Jackson, a coordinator for the International Medical Education and Research Program, said a study-abroad experience, such as what occurred in the partnership, is highly recommended by the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Studying abroad allows students to see different ways to approach a patient, give medical care and incorporate new forms of medicine that are unique to where they go, Jackson said.

“For example, if a student were to study medicine in Africa, they would learn to treat patients in circumstances where resources are limited,” she said.

The event was part of International Education Week. The week includes panel discussions, lectures, cultural celebrations, a debate and a wine-tasting event, according to a press release.

“International Education Week is a great opportunity to showcase the international activities occurring throughout the University (of Minnesota),” said Gene Allen, associate vice president for the Office of International Programs at the University of Minnesota.

“Our motto in the Office of International Programs is ‘Preparing Global Citizens,’ ” Allen said.

International Education Week was first declared by the U.S. departments of State and Education in 2000 as an effort to encourage policies and programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract students from other countries to study in the United States, according to the International Education Week’s Web site.