I was born in 1968 in a small village in Yunnan province in southwest China. My parents are farmers who speak ethnic Bai language, which is my first language. They have 3 sons and I am the second one. My mother is illiterate. She cannot read or write. My father had about 9 years’ education, and so did my older brother. My younger brother only had 3 years’ schooling and dropped out. I am the only member in my family that received higher education.
It’s a big challenge for Bai ethnic students to overcome language barrier. We only started to learn Chinese in primary school, and all tests and exams were in Chinese. In 1981 about 90 Bai students graduated from the same village school which I attended, and only 4 students were luckily selected by a key middle school in the region (the Number 1 Middle School of Dali), and I was one of the 4 luckiest students.
I left my beloved family members and the village to study in the key middle school in the city for 6 years. In the middle school I continued to learn Chinese and started to learn English, which is my third language and favourite subject. I also learned history, maths, physics and other subjects. Six years’ hard work paid off when I received an acceptance letter from the famous West China University of Medical Sciences in August 1987.
The five-year undergraduate program helped me lay a solid foundation in health sciences as well as in English language. I was very fortunate to be taught by some foreign teachers from Great Britain and the United States at that medical university.
After I got my first university degree in 1992 I joined a provincial Centre for Disease Control in China. I actively participated in several international cooperative health projects, such as polio eradication project and health promoting school project which was funded by the World Health Organization.
In 1996 (one...