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Students/Faculty News Kevin Storr January 23, 2017

Chen Houser 1087 UAB Campus Webb BuildingClass 1: XIAN Medical University / UAB MSHA program on UAB campus in 1987Trevor Chen was a member of the only class of the UAB School of Health Professions' (SHP) Master of Science in Health Administration (MSHA) Sino-American Joint Program in 1989. The unique program sponsored by Project HOPE lost its funding when USAID funds were shifted to the Newly Independent States after the demise of the Soviet Union.

The graduation ceremony, held in Shaanxi Province, China, celebrated the combined MSHA Class 15 graduates from UAB and from Xian Medical University (XMU) and received news coverage from China’s national news agency. UAB President Scotty McCallum, DMD, MD, SHP Dean Keith Blayney, Ph.D., Chinese Minister of Health Dr. CHEN Mingzhang and XMU President Dr. REN Huimin, Vice President Dr. SHI Dapu, and Program Director Dr. Howard W. Houser attended this historical event.

And while many may view graduation as the end of education, Trevor, who is known as CHEN Hua in his native country of China, says it was only the beginning. The UAB Sino-American Joint Program altered history – for him and his country.

For China, it became a true reflection of UAB’s “knowledge that will change your world” campaign.

“Many of my UAB classmates went on to senior positions in hospitals and health systems and government agencies throughout the country,” said CHEN.

Houser 2016Howard Houser lecturing in 2016For CHEN himself, it is his mentor/mentee relationship with UAB Department of Health Services Administration Professor Emeritus Howard W. Houser, Ph.D., that continues to this day. Nearly 30 years later they remain close and see each other regularly during Houser’s frequent trips to China.

“When we first met in 1986 he was a 20-something student so we have almost like a father-son relationship to this day,” said Houser. “In that role, I have enjoyed sharing guidance and watching him become the entrepreneur and leader he is today.”

Today, CHEN is a managing partner of multiple resorts located across his native country. It may sound like a far cry from his health care background, but when one recognizes that virtually every hospital also performs nearly all hotel functions, it was a simple step from hospitals to hotels. At the end of the Sino-American Joint Program, CHEN returned to his homeland, was sought out to work nights and weekends in a new local hotel and thus he has made his mark and very successful career in hotels and resorts rather than hospitals.

While the end of the Sino-American Joint Program may have been the end of CHEN’s healthcare career, it was not the end of Houser’s work in educating future generations of healthcare leaders in China. Rather, it was the beginning of a decades-long effort that continues today.

Houser TsinghuaHouser and his wife Shannon (to his right) with students from Tsinghua UniversityFor the past several years, Houser has taught  graduate students in hospital management at Tsinghua University, one of the elite academic institutions in China. Since 2015, each summer, he brings part of the class to UAB’s campus for three weeks of intensive study just like were originally planned with the Sino-American Joint Program that graduated Chen.

“Trevor recently spoke to our students from the Tsinghua program and they were impressed and stunned that he would address them,” said Houser. “He gave an emotional talk and told them that his successful life would not have been possible without his UAB education. That, along with his drive, it has given him a special and spectacular life.”

“In particular, I want to extend my personal thanks and also to recognize Dr. Houser who was much more than just a professor,” said CHEN. “He was, and still is, a true friend and mentor to us all.”

Chen Houser 01Chen (2nd from left), Houser (3rd from left) and other Class 1 members in 2013In an effort to honor his mentor and former professor, CHEN has endowed the Chen Hua Endowed Scholarship in Honor of Dr. Howard W. Houser. The six-figure gift will provide scholarship support to MSHA students with preference given to, but not limited to, international students and highest priority given to ethnic Chinese students. 

“Now that I am able, I want to provide that type of opportunity to a new generation of promising students,” said CHEN. “I endowed a scholarship fund because UAB played a transformative role – not just in my life, but also to Chinese public health.”

“Scholarships are extremely important because many graduate students take part-time jobs or student loans just to survive or feed their family,” said Houser. “It is critical that a student focus 100 percent on studying because it benefits them and those they will serve. If we can help students start life without debt then that will help us secure the top students from around the world.”

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