Nov. 6, 2019
Written By: Rosemary Chen (陳昱安)
Photo Credit: International College Provisional Office
On Oct. 7, Director Jean-François Casabonne-Masonnave of the French Office in Taipei made his first public appearance in Taiwan at the NTU International College Provisional Office’s event, International College Forum. The topic of the two-hour event was “How to transform public healthcare through health and medical research cooperation of France and Taiwan.”
On the morning of Oct. 7, the International College Provisional Office invited the new director of the French Office in Taipei, Director Jean-François Casabonne-Masonnave, to share his views on transforming public healthcare through health and medical research cooperation between France and Taiwan. The two-hour event was attended by over 50 faculty members, students and guests — most notably Dr. Jean-Marc Egly, a distinguished professor at NTU, Yushan Scholar and expert in medical research who also shared his views during the Q&A session.
The event was commenced by the Deputy Vice President for Academic Affairs of NTU, professor Tsai-Kun Li, first welcoming the foreign guests on behalf of the NTU International College Provisional Office. “We are very honored to collaborate with the French Office in Taipei for today’s event … at the International College, we are trying to utilize the strengths of Taiwan and NTU academia, to leverage and reach out globally.” Smart health care is one of many examples of international collaboration for Taiwan and the office has invited the new French director to share his views, said the Deputy Vice President.
Director Casabonne-Masonnave was newly appointed to the French Office in Taipei this September, making the International College Forum his first public appearance in Taiwan. But he is no stranger to Asia. In his 30 years of service in the French foreign ministry, he has been posted to Hanoi, Jakarta, and Tokyo for several years each. Not only is he a long-time ambassador, but he is also a particularly distinguished one. In 2015, he received the Knight of the National Order of Merit for his distinguished civil achievements and over three decades of service to his country. Before arriving in Taipei, he was Vice-Director for Internal Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France.
The director began his presentation with a story from his recent medical check-up in France before leaving for Taiwan. At his medical examinations, he was told by the French doctors that he would receive the same quality of care in Taiwan as he did in France. “So I understood what we are looking at here today is the possibility of common cooperation, with mutual benefits on both the French and Taiwan sides and I’m really happy to lead the direction during my post here in Taiwan,” he said. His presentation was outlined with three main topics, including, health and medical research in France, scientific cooperation and future cooperation.
France devotes approximately 12 percent of its GDP annually to provide near-universal health care, covering 70 to 100 percent of medical expenses for its citizens and residents. The country is ranked 11th on the 2018 Euro Health Consumer Index, outperforming its Western Europe neighbors, Germany and the United Kingdom.
However, the French medical research system is far more complicated than what meets the eye. It can be segmented into different research organizations, clusters, some publicly funded and other privately owned said the Director. Its main research organization includes Inserm, CNRS and Institute Pasteur and its health clusters are spread out into seven different regions of the country. Other research funding organizations and programs include ANR, Investissements D’avenir, and European H2020.
The country also has nation-wide and long-term plans to tackle complicated diseases. In recent years, the government has been focusing on research and treatment of cancer, rare diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, addiction, and genomic medicine — just to name a few. The aviesan, IBISA and One Health Project are all examples of the country’s roadmap to healthcare.
In the past few years, Taiwan and France have collaborated on numerous scientific and medical projects, three of which were award-winning. One of the main collaboration is between Taiwan’s Show Chwan Health Care System and France’s Research Institute against Digestive Cancer and the European Institute of Tele-Surgery. The Asian Institute of TeleSurgery in Taiwan is one of the many accomplishments from the partnership. It was established a decade ago and only recently held a 10th-anniversary celebration event. INSERM and NTU, College of Medicine, have also been cooperating for many years on cancer research through the TRANSCAN program.
Aside from cooperations in the medical and scientific fields, the Deputy Counselor of the French Office, Mr. Benoit Lepine, said the two countries also have strong partnerships in marine biology and the humanities. Furthermore, the office focuses on a specific field for collaboration each year — the topic of interest last year was artificial intelligence and environmental sustainability will be the focus for the coming year.
The Cultural counselor, Mr. David Kibler, also head of culture, university cooperation, and education, also mentioned that there will be an education fair at the end of October this year for French universities to attend in Taiwan, in hope of furthering academic exchange between the two countries.
During the Q&A session, many questions were raised regarding future collaborations plans between the two countries, start-up opportunities in France for Taiwanese companies, and suggestions for students interested in studying abroad in France.
Professor Kuo-Hsien Su of the Department of Sociology and former Dean of the College of Social Science said he believes that “health” should not be limited to medical health but behavioral science in general. Professor Su encouraged more research and academic collaborations between the two countries. For example, establishing data centers in Taiwan for medical schools and social scientists to work together to analyze medical records and advice on national health policy.
A Taiwan AI healthcare startup, MeDA Lab, short for Medical Data Analytics Laboratory, was also present at the event and was interested in expanding to the market in France. The start-up created The Artificial Intelligence for Medical Image Analysis Platform (AIMIA Platform) which includes an Artificial Intelligence Engine to extract hidden information from high-dimensional medical image data sets and Augmented Intelligence Workflows to turn the information into clinical intelligence. Representatives from the French Office said they actively seek for scientific collaboration opportunities and welcomed the start-up’s team members to speak to them after the event.
Liang Yu Xin (梁育新), a fourth-year NTU medical student, asked for suggestions for studying Ph.D. in France. The deputy counselor explained that Ph.D. is more research-based in France and more of a one-on-one relationship. Dr. Egly suggested that having a master’s degree in Taiwan may be advantageous as the student accumulates more lab and internship experiences before applying to a Ph.D.
The Deputy Vice President for Academic Affairs professor Li Tsai-Kun, who is also a professor at the NTU school of medicine said, “The best thing to do is to get to know the people, by meeting in person and thereby creating new windows of opportunity — just like today.” He also invited everyone to take part in the up-coming welcome party of the newly established “NTU-France Club” initiated by the French Office in Taipei.
The event concluded with thank you gifts for the guests and a group photo — with many staying behind to exchange contacts and converse, as the event was only the beginning of many new partnerships and friendships.