Yudong Zhang attended Renmin University of China in Beijing, China for her undergraduate studies. Initially drawn to the study of sociology, over time she became interested in social work. As she learned more about social work, she aspired to study in the U.S. where social work was well developed as a discipline and a profession. Having completed SSA’s social administration track for her master's, she intends to bring back what she has learned to China as Yudong is particularly interested in reproductive health.
“SSA places good emphasis on methodology. This is important to me as I pursue a doctorate degree. I want prospective students to know that even if you do not have a clear idea of what you want to do when you get here, that you shouldn’t worry -- the learning structure here at SSA will allow you to become a good clinician, a good administrator, or a good researcher. You will gain skills in every area.”
At her first field placement in the Elderly Service Department at the Chinese American Service League, her field instructor, Yick Lun Mo, was very supportive. Yudong learned how to integrate the theory that she was learning in the classroom with the practice skills she was learning at her field placement. Her supervisor guided her in her learning about empathy and how to respect clients’ self-determination. “It was at SSA that I learned how to be a professional social worker,” she said.
She worked at the University of Chicago Medicine (hospital) for her second year field placement with Dr. Renslow Sherer, MD on the Wuhan University Medical Education Reform Program. Dr. Sherer is a Professor of Medicine and is the Director of the International AIDS Training Center. One of his current projects is to provide ongoing training and technical assistance for medical education reform in several medical schools in China. Yudong assisted the team with medical students’ need assessment and curriculum evaluation.
Yudong explains, “I learned that medical education in China couldn’t meet the increasing needs of patients and isn’t compatible with the reformed medical system. Nowadays there is a huge level of mistrust between patients and doctors. Dr. Sherer’s program helps to prepare medical students to become better clinicians and teach medical students communications and ethical skills that are key to doctor-patient communication.” Inspired by Dr. Sherer’s work in HIV treatment and prevention in China, Yudong feels strongly about finding innovative ways to bring what she learned in sociology and social work to address is the issue of HIV/AIDS in China. “After my doctorate, I want to do high quality research to inform the next generation of social workers and researchers in China,” she says.
Bouris is affiliated with Ci3, an interdisciplinary center at the University of Chicago that focuses on research and programs concerning: global women and children's health; child and youth development; sexually transmitted infections and HIV; adolescent and unintended pregnancy; and obesity and its reproductive comorbidities. It was through professor Bouris that Yudong became familiar with Ci3 and she worked as mentor for African American youth through Ci3’s Game Changer Chicago program for six weeks during the summer of 2014.
Game Changer Chicago is a program that employs game play and game design to engage youth in problem-based, collaborative learning about sexual and emotional health. It was with Game Changer Chicago that Yudong learned about role-play and learned about the different ways of communicating and working with adolescents. “I really enjoyed working with youth and gained ideas about how to communicate and engage them on issues about their health. This experience, as well as my experience here at SSA, has given me the confidence and the skill-sets to start an exciting research career.” She is now a current SSA doctoral student examining the social determinants of reproductive health, especially of women in low-income settings.