Skyline alum Daniel Peng taking skills to China
August 5, 2014
By Neil Pierson
At just 24 years old, Daniel Peng is an extensive world traveler, and he’s headed back to foreign lands for the better part of the next year.
Peng grew up in Sammamish and Issaquah, and graduated from Skyline High School in 2008. He’s crisscrossed the globe as a collegiate student and young professional, and he recently earned a prestigious honor that will allow him to spend nine months in China.
In May, Peng learned he was the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant. He’s one of about 1,800 recipients nationwide who will have the chance to travel abroad for a unique hands-on learning opportunity in their chosen field.
Peng earned a degree in biology from Santa Clara University in 2012, and he began working in January for ElationEMR, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in electronic medical records.
He’s fluent in Mandarin, and has visited China several times. He’s headed back there in mid-September thanks to his Fulbright grant, which will have him stationed at a clinic in Hangzhou, a city of about 6 million in the eastern portion of the country.
“It’s quite a large city, but it’s not one of those main cities when you think of China,” Peng said.
In order to obtain the Fulbright award, Peng began an extensive application process last fall. His research grant proposal targets Type 2 diabetes, which is far more prevalent, but less understood than Type 1 diabetes. Together, the two forms of the disease affect about 29 million Americans.
Prior to his current job, Peng spent time working with diabetics of all ages at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and at the Pacific Free Clinic in San Jose.
Diabetes is an epidemic with many unanswered questions, Peng said. During his time in Hangzhou, he’ll be interacting with patients and clinicians to affect change.
“In terms of the research I’m conducting, this is not hard science,” he said. “It’s more of a public health project.”
Simple changes, Peng noted, can reduce the rates of diabetes. People can often create and maintain better health by eating more fruits and vegetables, and fewer high-fat foods and simple carbohydrates like white rice and potatoes. Another important factor, Peng said, is getting patients to understand and care about dietary restrictions.
Educating others comprises about half of his duties in China. He’s also going to be working to create a patient database that will help doctors understand the long-term affects of treatment.
“Can we monitor and quantify the effects of these interventional changes that we’re making at these clinics?” Peng said.
Fulbright is a government-sponsored program through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, an offshoot of the U.S. Department of State. The program has been operating since 1946, and has reached into more than 150 countries.
Many notable scholars, teachers, scientists and entrepreneurs have received Fulbright grants, and other prominent recipients include Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos; novelist Jonathan Franzen; Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus; and architect Daniel Libeskind, who designed the post-9/11 World Trade Center plans.
Peng’s travels also took him for a year to England, where he studied at Oxford University through an award from Santa Clara’s honors program.
At Skyline, Peng ran sprints for the track team, but he shifted to basketball at Oxford. Basketball is a fringe sport in England, and he was able to play with several former NCAA Division I players who jumped across the pond to a less restrictive amateur environment. Oxford finished fourth in the nation during Peng’s one season.
“It was a great learning environment because those guys were just great role models for me from a life standpoint,” he said.
Peng attended Clark Elementary School and Beaver Lake Middle School before coming to Skyline, where he believes working in the International Baccalaureate program proved to be a huge influence.
“I got into college feeling like I had done all of the course work before,” he said. “The first year was kind of a review.”