Communication Home

During this year's American Osteopathic Association Convention, held last week in Las Vegas, Dr. Bill Burke received a Distinguished Service Award from the American Osteopathic Foundation for his work in China. He also gave a presentation about his service in China at the convention AOF Board of Directors meeting.

Burkes lend a hand in China

Dr. Bill Burke has been working to train primary care physicians in China, but after the earthquake this spring, he and his wife provided aid of a more urgent nature.


The Burkes with a local mother and baby, whom Bill had just treated for mosquito bites.

By Anita Martin
Nov. 6, 2008

Last spring, Bill Burke, D.O. (’88), associate professor of family medicine, and his wife, Debbie Wenner Burke, were planning a trip to China with the humanitarian aid group Heart to Heart International. She would work in a school for the deaf and a senior center, and he would continue his recent work advising health professionals on issues related to primary care medicine.

Then, ten days before their departure, the May 12 earthquake struck the Sichuan province.

The earthquake killed tens of thousands of people, injured hundreds of thousands and left millions homeless. Upon arriving, the Burkes, immediately went to work, setting up tents for displaced families and distributing food and medical supplies. It was Bill’s third trip to China—both previous trips also focused on training primary care physicians—and Debbie’s first.

“It’s more amazingly devastated than I imagined,” Debbie Burke told National Public Radio’s Andrea Hsu, who interviewed the couple during her on-site report. “But I’ve also seen that the spirit of the people is incredible. These are really resilient people. There are still strong families and still a lot of smiles today.”

Bill has since returned to China, twice, to counsel physicians and health ministries on primary care practices, medical equipment and standards for training. “I’m working with health professionals to assist the country’s transformation from a specialty-driven medical system to one more focused on primary care,” he says.

During his most recent visit, in July, he attended a two-day Chinese Medical Doctor’s Association conference in Nanjing, where he presented on family practice residency training in the United States. He was one of two non-Chinese speakers.

These efforts in training Chinese primary care physicians receive support from the American Osteopathic Foundation and the American Osteopathic Association. Bill says he eventually hopes to bring a group of Chinese medical professionals to Ohio to demonstrate primary care education and training at OU-COM and the Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education.

Bill also notes that his and Debbie’s experience in May has sparked in them a greater interest in relief work. “The people we met were so warm and welcoming and grateful. Because of that, we both feel that we got more out of the experience than we gave.”

Bill Burke is an osteopathic family physician with Doctors Hospital Family Practice Center in Grove City, Ohio, where he directs the Family Practice Residency. He was president of the OU-COM Society of Alumni and Friends from 1993-1995, and he has served on the both Ohio University Foundation Board of Trustees and the American Osteopathic Association House of Delegates. Debbie graduated in 1985 from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology. She currently serves on the Ohio University Alumni Association Executive Committee and is chair of the Russ College Board of Visitors.

  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
Copyright Ohio University (Home)
Last updated: 01/28/2016