I started working as a family doctor at Desheng Community Health Service Center in 2011. I had worked as an internist - a specialist in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases - in the predecessor of the center, which was a hospital, since I graduated from medical school in 1991.
The health center is aimed at local people, and residents can choose one of the doctors based at the center to become their family doctor.
Right now, more than 800 residents in the community have signed up with me, including about 600 suffering from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. The others are generally healthy and come in for advice about health issues.
Now, more residents want a family doctor, but a few years ago the idea was new to most people. The center has taken various steps to mobilize people to sign up.
I think there is a great difference between a family doctor and one working in a big hospital. At big hospitals, doctors specialize in certain fields, but a family doctor is a general practitioner who centers on the patient and has a more intimate and personal relationship with patients. They also emphasize psychological counseling and the prevention of diseases.
Now, family doctors are becoming increasingly popular in Beijing because they provide many benefits. They are local in the communities and can refer patients, if need be, to specialists at top hospitals, such as Peking University First Hospital.
Some people think family doctors have a lighter workload, but that is not true. We are helping an increasing number of patients, and most of them are older than 60.
With an aging population, I think family-doctor-based community health centers will play a bigger role. It is not possible for big hospitals to deal with everyone, and community centers are actually more suitable for the provision of many services.
The greatest joy I get working here as a family doctor comes from the personalized relationship I have with my patients. Once, a patient I know well gave me an envelope containing money during Chinese New Year. I returned the money but kept the envelope because it had a handwritten note of thanks.