In the summer of 1920 Yen Hui Ching became the first Chinese person to study at the Marine Biological Laboratory, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Yen, a native of Fuzhou (previously Romanized as ‘Foochow’), China, came as a student to the MBL Physiology course after graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Oberlin College. Oberlin College, through its vast Shansi network, had been working to establish educational ties between the US and China since the late 19th century.
Following her attendance in the MBL Physiology course, Yen enrolled in medical school at Johns Hopkins University, earning her Medical Degree in 1924. From there, she moved back to China, and became a physician at Peking Union Medical College in Beijing. Peking Union Medical College is among the most prestigious medical institutions in China, and was founded in 1906 with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Yen remained at Peking Union Medical College for three years, finally leaving in 1927 to become a lecturer in Hygiene and Public Health at Fukien Christian University in her hometown of Fuzhou.