Shantou – Xianheng Wu

A Manager For Humanistic Care

Xianheng Wu is a role model for doctors combining medicine and management. Besides running the radiology department at Shantou Center Hospital, he heads his hospital’s HR department and many other hospitals in his region. There are more to come.

radiology.bayer.com (rbc): All your radiologists join for a whole hour of reading and reporting lessons every morning, despite their workload. Why?

Xianheng Wu (XW): I have been working in this hospital over twenty years. In the beginning, we did not have a good knowledge base, and our education system was poor. When I became the head of radiology in 2011, I made the decision right away to build up a good education system for our radiologists here.  We have done this educational morning reading from the very first day.

My other decision was to really implement all the medical regulations in his hospital, not just on paper.

Standardized Education


rbc: How has your dedication to education developed since?

XW: Shantou Center Hospital is now part of the very first group of hospitals selected for an initiative led by the Chinese government: We are a standardized education center, which means we provide standardized fellowship and residence training. Theoretically, standardized education should be rolled out in all of China by 2020.

We are one of the very first to do this.

rbc: Was it hard to get that standardization implemented?

XW: Yes.

rbc: How did your radiologists react when you told them you would take away one hour for education per day?

XW: There was resistance at the beginning. Even the former radiology chair disagreed with my decision. But as time went by, everyone saw the benefit. If you want to improve your diagnostic accuracy and efficacy, you have to improve your diagnostic skills.

The morning sessions are a win-win situation: Younger radiologists learn from their seniors. Experienced colleagues get pushed to learn new things.

The Workload

rbc: Getting back to the workload: How many people work for the department?

XW: We have 89 persons working in radiology. More than 40 radiologists, 20 technologists and more than 10 nurses.

rbc: How many patients do the radiologists at Shantou Center Hospital see each day?

XW: In general radiology, we have a total of six scanners, and we see around 600 patients every day. 20 radiologists work for general radiology, ten technicians and three nurses.

The CT department has two scanners right now. We see around 200 patients for plain scan every day. 40 to 50 receive CT contrast. We are currently waiting for a third CT scanner. It is already paid for, we are awaiting the installation. So there is more to come. 30 employees work for the CT department: Between ten and 20 radiologists, six or seven technologists, and three or four nurses.

We also have two MRI scanners, and a new one is already purchased and waiting for installation. More than 10 people work for MRI. About 100 to 150 patients receive an MRI scan every day. Around 20 MRI scans are contrast enhanced.

 Heading CT and MRI


rbc: What are your responsibilities as department chair?

XW: I not only chairing the department, I also lead the big imaging center here. Nuclear medicine, PET/MR and PET/CT and ultrasound are all together. The other methods have their own department chair and he is doing the whole management lead. This construction is rather unusual for China.

I am mainly concentrating on administration management and education. I think the well-systemized education is one of the most important parts of my work, but it should also include learning about humanistic care.

rbc: What do you mean by humanistic care?

XW: Taking care for your patients. I have lectured about how to communicate before an examination, telling patients exactly what is going to happen. Radiologists need to know where to pay attention: They need to know that it will be cold inside of an MRI room, they should understand how to communicate with clinical colleagues from a patient’s perspective to find the most suitable solution for the patient. Medicine is not about a hospital making profit.

rbc: How is the doctor-patient relationship in China?

XW: The public opinion is not that good right now. In the news we hear about misdiagnoses and crowds gathering to beat or kill the doctors responsible for it.

We never experience cases like that here. If you communicate with your patients, they will appreciate what you do and why you do it. And if you make a mistake, just admit it. Patients will understand you and neither get angry nor get you into trouble.

The Tail of China


rbc: In which way does Shantou and the whole Guangdong region differ from the rest of China?

XW: Shantou is often called "the tail of China". We are remote, at the rear end of a huge country. In fact, Shantou is so remote that the ancient traditional culture and its language are very well preserved. The special Shantou dialect is a thousand years old. Chinese people from other regions are unable to understand it.

rbc: What does being remote do to Shantou?

XW: Generally speaking, being remote has meant being relatively poor in the past. If you are poor, you think about ways to get out of this situation. This is why many overseas Chinese come from the Shantou area. There are a lot of rich overseas Chinese right now, who want to give something back to their hometown, so Shantou is becoming wealthier and more developed. One of the richest Chinese in the world, the Hong Kong business magnate Lee Ka-Shing, comes from this region.

rbc: What does being located in Shantou mean for your practice?

XW: Because of the enormous population, we see a lot of rare diseases – I have a rather large case collection.

Of course, scientific exchange with the renowned, senior radiologists in the big cities hardly exists. We are disadvantaged in that perspective. For me personally, it is not such a big deal, but it may make a difference for younger radiologists.

rbc: Is research on your agenda?

XW: Scientific research is not the way I am going. However, I am very much into evaluating and setting up new workflows and structures. I was appointed as the managing director of the whole hospital due to this.

Management and Medicine

rbc: How did you as a radiologists get into that position?

XW: Before I became the human resources department head in 2016, I headed the medical equipment department for seven years. It was a sensitive position with a lot of money involved. But I managed to upgrade this hospital to one of the best in our province during that time. I bought the first dual source scanner in the province, and we also became the MRI development research pioneer here in the province of Guangdong. These results were visible and well received. So I switched to become the head of human resources and management for the whole hospital. But I never left radiology.

rbc: Why did you become a radiologist in the first place?

XW: Originally, I just wanted to study medicine and be a doctor. At that time every student was assigned to a subspecialty, so I became a radiologist, I had no choice.

It was not my favorite at the beginning. But I thought ‘I am here and I am going to make the best out of this situation’. I was lucky to have two former radiology chairs as mentors. They gave me the chance to be trained at Beijing Tiantan hospital for over half a year, which is one of the best hospitals for neuroradiology in all of China. I was lucky again that another excellent mentor guided me there as well.

rbc: What should young radiologists do to become as successful?

XW: They should not only care about diagnostic accuracy. The most important thing is always a loving heart. Do not be afraid to make a mistake. Always go for the most suitable diagnostic solution for the patient. Communicate well with patients and also with your colleagues from clinical departments. Collaborate to find the best way for your patients.

Of course, every young radiologist wants to be a famous expert some day, but if you just think of yourself, you can never get there. If you think of others out of a loving heart, serve others and are not selfish, this will all pay back and you will become a famous expert naturally over the years.

About Xianheng Wu


 Xianheng Wu (2nd from right) took a couple of hours from his busy schedule to show the Bayer representatives and the reporter team, how he has reshaped his department and connected community hospitals to his hospital’s experts in the city of Shantou.

Xianheng Wu is the radiology department head at Shantou Center Hospital. He also leads the hospital’s human resources department.

One of the most important reasons for him to study medicine comes from being ill during his youth and not well treated due to high patient throughput. “I wanted to change this situation,” he says. The doctor-patient relationship has since remained a major focus. It even made the title of a local newspaper report about him, which literally translates as "How to let patients feel the warmt from the cold machine".

Xianheng Wu was awarded with the prestigious and rare title of “national model worker” in 2016. The term is political and awarded to persons with the traits appropriate to an ideal socialist worker.

About Shantou

Shantou is a port city in the very Southeast of China, right at the Chinese sea. The tropic of cancer runs right through the city.

Shantou was one of the first four special economic zones in China. The city used to be poor, but nowadays contributes approximately one forth to the economy of the Guangdong province. Guangdong generates approximately 12% of China’s national economic output, with an economy of roughly the same size as Mexico. Guangdong is also the most populous province in China.

The city’s fate might turn. Shantou has been developing less rapidly in the last two years. “We have no air contamination here, so maybe in the future we will be developing into an eco city and a tourist destination,” says Xianheng Wu.