West China Hospital Joins Children’s HeartLink’s Centers of Excellence

“Congratulations to Dr. An and the West China team! A dream has come true. Achieving the gains of the last decade has not been easy. Their accomplishment comes from focusing on professional growth as individuals, as a team and as a system. There has been sacrifice, hard work, setbacks and big challenges. Dr. An and his team showed resilience. Ultimately, they moved forward successfully. Knowing the outstanding professionals that work on their team, I know this is only the beginning. We look forward to celebrating more success in the coming years as West China leads in China and enters the global stage.”–Glen Van Arsdell, M.D., head of cardiovascular surgery, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada; and Children’s HeartLink medical volunteer

These words of praise are especially meaningful coming from renowned pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Glen Van Arsdell. It’s the pinnacle of achievement and central to our model for one of our partner hospitals to be named a Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence. When our partner hospitals consistently deliver high-quality, complex care, they become a Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence and commit to training other pediatric cardiac specialists from low-resource environments. This is the heart of our train-the-trainer delivery model. This past week our partners at West China Hospital in Chengdu achieved this status.

The West China program has made remarkable strides since our partnership began, all the while matched with a medical volunteer team from The Hospital for Sick Children (also called Sick Kids Hospital) in Toronto. The close and steadfast relationship between these teams and our team has yielded excellent results and good outcomes for the young heart patients, highlighted in this 5-minute, award-winning video.

Children’s HeartLink Country Director Andreas Tsakistos and Vice President of International Programs Bistra Zheleva present a Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence Certificate to Vice President Wang Xuehong and Dr. An Qi of West China Hospital


West China is one of the largest hospitals in the world. It is located in Sichuan province in China, the world’s most populous country, with one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Despite the economic growth China has experienced over the last decade, many parts of the country remain largely underdeveloped and struggle with poverty.

Children with heart disease face a shortage of specialists and uneven access to medical care. In many areas of this vast country, patients and their families must travel great distances to seek treatment. In 2009 congenital heart disease became the leading cause of infant mortality in China, surpassing poverty-related illnesses such as diarrheal diseases and tuberculosis.

“We’re delighted to have West China join the ranks of our Centers of Excellence around the world,” says Children’s HeartLink President Jackie Boucher. “This is the heart of our model, where those who received training achieve excellent outcomes and then go on to train others. It’s an exciting moment as we recognize this great achievement, and we’re grateful to the teams from West China and Sick Kids for their hard work and perseverance. There are sick children throughout China who still need access to high-quality cardiac care. They and their families will benefit from both the care provided and training done by West China.”

“It’s been a great privilege to work with Children’s HeartLink and the team from Sick Kids,” says Dr. An Qi, vice director of the cardiovascular department at West China Hospital. “Our team here does much better work as a result. We are able to provide improved care for children and treat more complex heart defects. Now that we are a Children’s HeartLink Center of Excellence we look forward to helping train other pediatric cardiac teams in China, passing along the knowledge and skills that we received.”