Dr Wang Zhenyi 王振义

Wang Zhenyi(王振义Wáng Zhènyì), whose family comes from Jiangsu(江苏Jiāngsū) Province, said he took up medicine as a career(a career is the job or profession that someone does for a long period of their life) because as a child he thought it was honorable and paid well.

"A friend from a doctor’s family always gave me food and gifts that patients had given to his family," Wang said. "From that time on, I decided to become a doctor to enjoy similar wealth and prestige."

Wang’s grandmother died of the typhoid(伤寒shānghán) when he was seven years old. Though his family hired the best doctor in the city, she died of a disease that is curable today.

Her death increased Wang’s determination to treat disease, especially difficult cases.

Wang, inquisitive and a straight-A student, was recruited by Aurora University in Shanghai (now the Jiao Tong University’s School of Medicine) in 1942.

He graduated with a doctorate in 1948 and then practiced at Hospital Sainte-Marie (now Ruijin Hospital). Since he attended Aurora, wher instruction was in French, Wang is fluent in French and learned English when he was in his 60s.

Over the years, he worked in various departments, including the traditional Chinese medicine department. During the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) he swept the floors in a suburban health school and then was sent to a rural clinic in Anhui Province for several years.

Wang used every opportunity to learn while in the countryside. Since medical facilities were primitive and there was little medication available, he treated patients as best as he could. He taught himself acupuncture and herbal medicine.

When Wang returned to Shanghai, he broadened his focus beyond Western medicine to encompass traditional Chinese medicine.

"My different situations offered me different challenges and opportunities, but treating and curing patients is always the core," he said.

In the 1980s, there wasn’t a lot of advanced equipment and Wang had to scrounge and borrow to set up a hematology laboratory and then the Shanghai Institute of Hematology.

"Conditions were very hard in the 1980s and a lot of lab equipment and materials were borrowed from other hospitals and institutes," Wang said.

"My students even had to catch rats for our experiments."

Today, the perks of medical practice that he once envisioned are not important and he has been known to turn them down. Wang says making useful discoveries and helping patients are his greatest rewards.

Concern for his patients as people, not as medical cases, is at the heart of Wang’s work.

One day, a young doctor reported to Wang that a patient had a good appetite. Wang was curious and asked why but the young doctor had no idea.

Wang decided to investigate and talked to family members who were feeding the patient. He learned the family was vegetarian, and thus the patient might be lacking vitamin B12 in his diet. That was crucial to diagnosis and cure.

Wang especially treasures some gifts from his patients, even pairs of socks. At home he has socks that were given by a former patient treated 30 years ago. Wang’s correct diagnosis saved the man’s life.

"The family found me recently through the media and gave me the socks as a present because the former patient is working in a socks factory," Wang said. "They are precious to me."

In the interview Wang said he recently received a letter from a former patient with APL leukemia, now 82-years-old, who had survived and thrived for 14 years after treatment with ATRA.

"He is still very stable and healthy," said Wang. "only a doctor can receive this kind of gratitude and satisfaction."

All Wang’s students and colleagues are awed by Wang’s approach to medicine.

"Love and care for patients are what we should learn from Dr Wang," said Shen Zhixiang, director of Ruijin Hospital’s hematology department.

"We may have better knowledge and more advanced equipments than Wang did, but our concern for patients and devotion to work cannot compare with Wang’s." 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *