This period covers:- Northeastern University, Shenyang, China- RetinaCheck
Prof. Schuurmans and me discussingwith a new teaching professor
Martin Schuurmans, who was president of the famous Philips Natlab Laboratories
in Eindhoven, later established, as Board Member of Philips, new lines for Philips
Medical Systems. One line was a substantial expansion in China. In 2006 he founded a
Joint Venture with Neusoft, one of China’s largest Medical Imaging companies in
China, and TU/e. Neusoft, with more than 20.000 employees (2015) is located in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province in
Northeast China. This JV soon needed more biomedical engineers, and, together
with the CEO of Neusoft, prof. Jiren Liu, he established a new Biomedical and
Information Engineering School, as part of Northeastern University, a large and
good local university with 50.000 students. As the first appointed Chinese Dean
of BMIE could not do the job due to a major role in the Olympic Games in
Beijing, a new dean was needed, and Martin (just retired from Philips in 2006) and
his wife Victoire took the task to get the BMIE School through the first
infancy year, with great success (see also his autobiography).
I was asked by the Board of TU/e to assist the growing school, and was appointed at BMIE as vice dean for education. A 20-year contract was signed with TU/e. So from the beginning of the BMIE School I was,
together with my colleague Peter Hilbers, the TU/e representative, and gave regular
courses on medical image analysis and informatics.In the beginning, I visited Shenyang 1-2 times a year for teaching and advice. Later, I was appointed as professor at Northeastern University in Shenyang, and became project leader of the RetinaCheck project (see below). I frequently was in Shenyang, and had a private apartment on NEU campus.
I represented TU/e in the Joint Management Team (with BMIE, NEU, Philips and TU/e). Here I discuss the progress of the BMIE School of Northeastern University with prof. Jiren Liu.
Prof. Yan Kang, the dean of BMIE and heading the medical imaging software research at Neusoft, became a close friend. Yan was instrumental in getting things done in China, by introducing me anywhere and oiling many wheels.
BMIE Joint Management Committee in 2007. From left to right: Zhao Yue (Vice-dean), myself, Martin Schuurmans (Dean), Jicheng He (President Norteastern University), Frans Greidanus (Philips - Head of Research
and CTO Philips Asia), Jireng Liu (CEO Neusoft) and 3 legal representatives of NEU.
BMIE Joint Management Committee in 2017.
In the early days of the new BMIE school, students were dressed in uniform, and I really was the 'tall Dutchman'. Here students of a Master Class on 14-04-2007.
As design-centered learning (tackling a problem in a group) was a proven and highly successful educational concept in Eindhoven, we also introduced this at the BMIE School. The students really liked it. The groups were getting smaller every year, the problems more difficult, and the students more independent and self-confident.
Lecturer Han van Triest (a former MSc student of me in Eindhoven) was moved to China (due to his Chinese love), spoke Chinese and had a background in design-centered learning. He was instrumental in getting it to work in Shenyang. In China all strategies are dictated from above, and experimenting with this new educational form was a challenge, but, with the support of the Deat, the teachers and the unirsity it got a solid foot on the ground.
In 2016 I published a paper with our experiences with DCL in China.
I was project leader of a large Sino-Dutch collaborative project on screening project for diabetes in China: RetinaCheck.
In 2013 prof. Wei He, president of the He Vision group, asked us to assist in a eye-fundus screening program for early detection of damage by diabetic retinopathy. In China 11.6% has diabetes, due to genetic predisposition, and a too fast change in lifestyle. The goal was to finally screen 24 million people, the older half of the province of Liaoning. I started the Sino-Dutch RetinaCheck project.
The project was funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), the Dutch company i-Optics, the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD), the Chinese Diabetes Society, the EU Marie Curie project, the Chinese Scholarship Council and family support.
The He Vision Group in Shenyang, Northest China, is founded by prof. Wei He. Since then, prof. He has established 30 He Eye Specialist Hospitals and 26 He Eye Clinics with more than one million outpatients every year. Prof. He has been awarded the Vision Excellence Award 2020 by the IAPB, the International Agency for the prevention of Blindness.
Introducing the RetinaCheck project in Beijing to (from left to right) mr. Aart Jacobi (Dutch Ambassador in Beijing), mrs. Edith Schippers (Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport) and mr. Jeroen Cameraat (CEO i-Optics Inc., the company that gave us the major funding).
In 2013 prof. Wei He and I signed the agreement for Retinacheck in Beijing, observed by mrs. Jet Bussemaker (Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, and the presidents of the Dutch Science Foundation and the Dutch Academy of Sciences. We received generous funding from the Dutch Research Council NWO.
With the acquired funding, I could hire a postdoc, 4 PhD students and a range of MSc students, and purchase retinal laser-scanning fundus cameras, compute-servers and a dedicated GPU server with a total of 29440 cores.
Behdad, with a PhD in retinal Image analysis from prof. Aurélio Campilho of Porto University, lead the group in Eindhoven. He was my solid support when I was in China.
Our goal was to first develop a software suite for fully automated retinal image analysis:
- vessel segmentation, - artery-vein classification, - vessel diameters, - bifucations and crossings, - illumination normalozation,- crossings-preserving denoising,- optic nerve head detection, - fractal dimensions, - micro-aneurysm detection, - exudates and drusen detection.
The multi-orientation analysis, pioneered by Remco Duits, was highly rewarding.
Thousands of retinal images were acquired from our collaboration with the Maastricht Study, the world's most extensive phenotyping study for diabetes.
I knew dr. Tos Berendschot, the head of the Ophthalmology section in the Maastricht study, since 1986, when we were both at Utrecht University, and both in the board of the just founded Dutch Society for Clinical Physics.
The company i-Optics Inc. (The Hague, Netherlands) was our commercial partner and sponsor. Their laser-scanning screening camera EasyScan was successfully used in the project.
In China we collected fundus images from 50 He Vision optometry centers, the He Eye Hospital and the Shengjing Hospital, both in Shenyang. Further images came from a variety of public databases.
Fundus image acquisition in one of the many He Vision optometry stores in Shenyang, China. Left: Mengment Tong, right: the author.
Fundus image acquisition in He Eye Hospital, Shenyang, China
Chinese hospitals are over-crowded, and there is no time for research. We were lucky that prof. Ping Han, head of the Endocrinology Dept at the large Shengjing Hospital (3000 beds) in Shenyang made a dedicated RetinaCheck acquisition room available to us in the center of the department. Our Dutch RC partner i-Optics Inc. supplied the cost-effective scanning-laser ophthalmoscopes. We connected our cameras to the Hospital Information System (translating everything from Chinese to English). Paper: Zhu2016.
Fully automatic exudate detection.From: Abbasi2017b.
In the second half of the project we introduced residual neural networks, acquired a large GPU server, and trained neural nets successfully to detect micro-aneurisms and early signs of diabetes. In the Kaggle Challenge on Diabetic Retinopathy we reached 17th position of 662 participants on the leaderboard.
Our GPU server with 8 Nvidia Tesla Xp GPUs: 8 x 3680 = 29440 cores, € 30.000,-.
The RetinaCheck team in Shenyang.
The RetinaCheck team in Eindhoven.
Prof. Ping Han was very supportive, as well as the many nurses. Not always trivial in a virtually Chinese-only environment.
PhD students Jiong Zhang, Erik Bekkers, Samaneh Abbasi, Fan Huang, postdoc Behdad Dashtbozorg (not on the picture), Tos Berendschot (Maastricht) and several MSc students.
Every in-clinic diabetic patient was photographed, 100 patients / week. Patients liked the tulips and windmill on the wall posters.
We paid for Mei Xi, our RetinaCheck operator. Every patient signed a form to agree with the study.
This hospital is part of China Medical University. It has 3000 beds.
I frequently went to Shenyang, to teach and supervise the RetinaCheck project. It is not easy to survive in China when you do'nt speak the language and almost nobody speaks English. I had a Chinese bank account, and could arrange my own train tickets, hotel and theater bookings, pay with WeChat etc. I had my private couzy apartment on the old NEU campus, next to an abundance of small restaurants and Sanhao Street, famous for the dozens of large computer outlet stores. With my electric bike (and the excellent metro and bus system) I could easily travel downtown. Only a few Westerners are working/living in Shenyang. Several studytour visits were paid by our TU/e BME students to Shenyang, and I could always arrange a nice program for them.I was tremendously assisted by many good friends:
- prof. Yan Kang, Dean of the BMIE School in Shenyang, and General Manager of Clinical Application Business Unit at Neusoft Medical Systems, was my mentor in everything. He joined me at so many meetings, we held lots of brainstorm sessions, and he arranged for my housing (I had a wonderful apartment on NEU old campus), and my appointment at NEU as professor. Hetty and I went on a fantastic cruise on the Yangtze River with Yan and his wife Meixia.
- prof. Wei He, founder and president of He Eye Specialist Hospital and the He Vision Group (over 1200 emplyees), who gave me so many opportunities (the RetinaCheck project, clinical collaboration, activities in the Vision Museum, support for my students). Every time he impressed me by his clinical and societal achievements, his activities for large scale vision care in China, but also in developing countries, and his wonderful charisma. He received many awards, such as the Vision Excellence Award of the IAPB.
Han van Triest, TU/e BME MSc student in Eindhoven, who came to Shenyang for his 3-month externship, found there his Chinese wife Zhenzhen. They married, and he decided to stay in Shenyang, and became lecturer in the BMIE School. We organized so many events together: several international BMIE Summer Schools, lectures and labs, design-centered learning labs, study tours from TU/e, coaching of our Chinese students together, many many dinners, etc. His enthousiasm and good knowledge of Chinese habits was inspiring. He speaks fluently Chinese now after just a few years, very impressive!
Mengmeng Tong started as TU/e PhD student, working first in Eindhoven, later in Shenyang. He turned out to be an excellent facilitator for any imagineable aspect of the RetinaCheck project. He was indispensible in many clinical contacts, adminsitrative nightmares, getting the right stuff at the right place, bringing me and joining me everywhere. His wife Shanshan Zhu also started a PhD project. They took very well care of me when I was in the Shengjing Hospital for my hernia recovery.
- Prof. Tianzi Jiang is Director of the Key Laboratory of Brainnetome at the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing. He is also professor at Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, Australia. We collaborated on brain atlases, and optimizing deep brain stimulation for Parkinson patients. He appointed my group as Associate Member of LIAMA, and me as Visiting Professor at CAS.
- prof. Ping Han, director of the large diabetes department of Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang . She gave us full support with her clinical staff, helped us to get connected to the Shengjing Hospital Information System, and donated a research and image acquisiton room in the center of the department.
Ray-Guang Cheng is Distinguished
Professor at the Dept. of Electronic and Computer Engineering of National
Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) in Taipei, Taiwan, a specialist on wireless communication. We met during an IEEE conference, on a boat trip, in Budapest and became friends. He appointed me as Honorary Chair Professor at NTUST in Taipei, and I could regularly teach there a Master Class. He kindly introduced me to many Taiwanese companies and institutions, I could speak at several international conferences organized by NTUST and Ray's hospitality was key to my appreciation of the fascinating Taiwanese culture.
In 2019 the project was concluded (see the RetinaCheck final report). The RetinaCheck project was very successful. We published 55 peer-reviewed scientific papers, 4 PhD theses, a patent on our deep learning technology, and a wealth of retinal image analysis software.
The project was converted into the TU/e startup 'RetinaCheck', which was fully acquired by the He Vision Group in 2020. It is very rewarding that the screening program will now, with our RetinaCheck software, be rolled out at scale in China.During the whole project we were well supported by the TU/e (Rob Debey, Leon Luwijs, Annelies Kroon-van Kuijk, Bart Nelissen).
Wei He and Bart Romeny with patients in He Vision Eye Hospital, Shenyang, China.
On 25 September 2014 I received the prestigious Liaoning Friendship Award.
During the visit of the Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima to China, President Xi and his wife organized a welcome banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. I was invited as one of the few Dutch guests at this occasion. 25-10-2015.
I had many many dinners in China. The dinner with the vice-president of NEU in Shenyang was especially memorable with the beautiful singing waitresses. 28-11-2011.
During the opening of the Academic Year 2013-2014 I was appointed by prof. Wei He as Honorary President of He University, on stage, in front of 2000 students. 17-09-2013
On 06-11-2013 prof. He, prof. Kang and myself formally opened the Vision & Brain Institute, in the presence of the Governor of Liaoning, and th Mayor of Shenyang.
I had an integral part in the organization of the Vision &amp; Science Exhibition at the Eye Museum in Shenyang, with a focus on Brain Connections visualization, and visual illusions. 17-09-2013.
Prof. Wei He and myself were both speakers at the Vision for Vision Conference in Beijing, as part of the Grand Challenges World Meeting, together with the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation. Beijing, 19-10-2015.
I always stayed in charming courtyard hostels, if possible. My favorites: Double Happiness (Beijing), Lu Song Yuan (Beijing). I wrote a part of my FEV book in Dechang Folks Inn (Pingyao).
An interview with me during the Vision & Science Exhibition was aired at PTV News in Liaoning. 17-09-2013.
The annual social event with the teachers and staff of the BMIE School was always great fun. 19-05-2013.
Every visit to He Eye Hospital in Shenyang I was impressed by the very busy workflow, the many friendly nurses and doctors, and the social system: the rich pay for the poor.