Our Center of Excellence West China Hospital Uses 3D Heart Models in Training

This is the second in a series of posts featuring Children’s HeartLink Centers of Excellence. These hospitals became regional training centers after enhancing their own pediatric cardiac programs with the help of our medical volunteers. Our five Centers of Excellence in India, Malaysia and China commit to training pediatric cardiac specialists from low-resource regions. This is the heart of our train-the-trainer model. This is how our work helps the most children the fastest.

Dr. An Qi, West China Hospital, Chengdu, China


Children’s HeartLink’s partnership with West China Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the world, started in 2006. Back then, the hospital experienced a shortage of specialists trained in diagnosing and treating children with heart disease, resulting in a long waiting list. When West China Hospital achieved the status of Center of Excellence in 2017, its cardiac professionals started passing along the knowledge and skills they received from their volunteer mentor, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. West China Hospital established fellowship programs and implemented best practices of advanced training, including simulation-based training on 3D printed surgical heart models. 

West China Hospital has three cardiovascular disease training programs – for surgical residents, surgical fellows, and pediatric cardiology fellows.

“In three years, 19 professionals graduated from these programs: 10 residents, eight surgical fellows and one cardiology fellow. The majority of them came from all over China, and one resident was from Nepal,” says Dr. An Qi, vice director of the cardiovascular department.

Dr. An shares the education challenges they have faced as a regional trainer. 

“The education challenge we have faced is the lack of division of pediatric cardiology at the hospital. To solve this problem, we keep looking for collaboration in the training with the West China Second Hospital. The pandemic did not significantly reduce the number of trainees and patients in our program; however, some of our planned international exchange programs have to be held. For example, we are looking for the chance to start an international fellow exchange program with The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. We plan to start the program as soon as the pandemic settles down.”

West China Hospital incorporated hands-on surgical training (HOST) program into the congenital heart surgery curriculum for surgical trainees. Read an article about the HOST program here

“The HOST course offers surgical trainees a robust pathway to success by providing simulation-based standardized education without compromising patient care,” explains Dr. An. 

“For example, we started a VSD repair simulation training on a 3D printed surgical heart model for our residents and fellows. This study demonstrated that deliberate practice using simulation translates to better surgical performance and outcomes for real patients. Furthermore, residents who have never completed VSD closure could perform this surgical procedure after our simulation training just as safely and effectively as their senior colleagues. The results of this study are under review to be published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (JTCVS),” says Dr. An.

Read about our Center of Excellence in India: Our trainees establish cardiac programs

Read about our Center of Excellence in Malaysia that helps improve cardiac programs in several countries