Sister Cities agreement unites partners in innovation

USF Health is playing a key role in helping advance a new Sister Cities agreement between Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Mayor of Lanzhou, China, Yuan Zhanting. The two Mayors have exchanged letters and pledged to join together in collaboration to achieve connectivity in areas of culture, education and health care.

The Sister Cities designation opens up a corridor of ideas and partnerships without formal contracts. Tampa and Lanzhou are similar in size, population and various developing health care initiatives. They further align in the categories of transportation, education and finance, making the two cities nearly parallel in innovation and growth.

During a recent visit to China, USF Health International team members brought Mayor Buckhorn’s letter of invitation to the foreign affairs chief in Lanzhou. Leaders in Lanzhou returned the gesture and sent a gracious letter back to Mayor Buckhorn and the City of Tampa with a book of artwork and signature stamps as a token of friendship from their city. Linman Li, USF Medicine International Director of Asia Programs, presented Mayor Buckhorn with the letter and gift on June 1st in downtown Tampa at City Hall.

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From left: John Sinnott, MD, chair of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, Lynette Menezez, PhD, assistant vice president of USF Health International, Roberta Burford, JD, associate vice president for Strategic Health Operations at USF Health, and Linman Li, USF Medicine International Director of Asia Programs, presented the Sister Cities letter to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn at City Hall.

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Linman Li, USF Medicine International Director of Asia Programs, shares details about how Lanzhou, China and Tampa, Fla., are alike with Mayor Buckhorn.

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The gift included a letter and book of artwork and signature stamps as a token of friendship from Lanzhou.

“We are competing in a global environment, the world is getting smaller and smaller,” said Mayor Buckhorn. “I think there are also opportunities for increased foreign direct investment, increased trade opportunities, significant cultural opportunities, and certainly with the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, educational opportunities and reciprocal agreements that can be established with the medical schools in Lanzhou.”

Lanzhou is the capital city of Gansu Province, which hosts the Gansu Province Health Department, one of the strongest international partners of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. A robust medical student exchange program, developed through USF Health International, brings physicians from Lanzhou to the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine for training and residencies each year.

This relationship, along with other similarities between the cities, such as developing new infrastructure and moving health care forward, paved the way for the new partnership.

Dr. John Sinnott, MD, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, Dr. Lynette Menezes and Linman Li have been a driving force, working with the Sister Cities board to foster the partnership between the two cities and move forward with the designation over the course of several months.

When Dr. Sinnott approached the Sister Cities board about developing the formal partnership, he explained the parallels between the cities and the foundation that USF Health has created over the course over several years. “We talked about the very close relationship that Lanzhou has with USF; we have trained more than 150 Chinese physicians in five years, and the idea of Lanzhou being a focal point of China’s new economic initiative, called China 2.0, where they have constructed nine 2,000 bed hospitals in the last three years and each one is twice the size of Tampa General. That gives an indication of how seriously they take health.”

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Members of the Tampa Sister Cites board and USF Health leaders join Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

This Sister Cities partnership is the tenth connection that Tampa has developed worldwide, all with cities similar in population, transportation and education. According to Victor Fernandez, president of Tampa Sister Cities, this new Sister Cities connection is a unique pairing. “I would say that this relationship would never have taken place had it not been for Dr. Sinnott and the USF Health team to establish it; we would not have even thought to go and establish a beachhead with China,” Fernandez said.

The process to earn the designation is very specific and this one aligned itself well for the committee. “The other thing we look for is similarities in the cities – we have a port, they have a port; they are located on a river that is kind of a centerpiece for their city and we are, too. We see ourselves as a gateway to Florida, they see themselves as a gateway to western China,” Fernandez said. An official signing between the two cities is planned for fall 2016.