People-to-people exchanges between China and the US could happen anywhere, anyplace through various platforms, as long as the initiator recognizes the importance of goodwill communication and is willing to promote a deeper, better and more candid dialogue.

Institutions of higher learning in particular must prepare their students to thrive in today’s global economy and communicate well in an international workforce, through facilitating cross-cultural exchange.

That is the impression I was left with when I walked out of the Art of Dentistry, a photo exhibition that features 34 pieces of microscopic photography by a Chinese physician to celebrate the spirit of collaboration and innovation between the medical worlds of China and the US.

Starting at the Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific (UOP) on Aug 12, the exhibition features artistic works by Li Tiejun, associate dean and professor of oral pathology in the School of Stomatology at Peking University.

Students from both universities, which have had exchange programs for a decade, brainstormed on the exhibition blueprint – how to choose, enlarge and frame the images; secure a venue; and finally, open to the public.

Under the microscope, Li finds everything – an irritated blood vessel, decalcified bone tissue or a section of cartilage tissue – poetic, mysterious and magical.

“In fact, every cell has a story to tell, every molecule works a miracle. They are themselves very artistic and have waited thousands of years to be explored and to be appreciated,” he said.

With his instincts as a painter and photographer, Li eventually decided to use scientific tools, the microscope, for example, to record his medical explorations and present his findings through capturing, processing and interpreting microscopic images by deploying the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang and the five elements and calling his collective album Beauty of Life.

The names that Li gives to each of his works, Under the Moon, Rainy Season, Winter Branches and Boundless, for example, are his interpretation of the essences of Chinese culture and civilizations – the necessity to harmonize with the environment, the pursuit of spiritual eternity and tranquility, and inner peace.

Through special staining, changing of prisms, unlimited imagination and creativity, Li’s cross-boundary microscopic photography resonates with professional photographers and academic colleagues alike, said Nan Xiao, a student of Li 10 years ago and now an associate professor of biomedical science at UOP.

“Today’s event celebrates the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry’s globally connected culture and explores clinical excellence and leadership,” said Nader Nadershahi, dean of the Dogoni School. “Our long-standing partnership with Peking University School of Stomatology is one example of how we build bridges with others.”

The photomicrographs take you through the mists of technology to a little-traveled land of life, said Colin Wong, adjunct professor at UOP who connects the school’s international programs with China and beyond.

“Currently, we are hosting eight young students from Peking University, and they are among us tonight,” said Wong, when announcing the start of the exhibition at the reception, adding that the young civic ambassadors are not only learning from Western technological know-how but spreading friendship between young generations.

On a personal note, Li called the student-exchange program a budding relationship inspired by humanism, leadership, creativity and clinical excellence between China and the US.

“I hope this is an opportunity to further strengthen our long, existing friendship between our two universities,” said Li.

Contact the writer at [email protected]

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