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Friday, 11 January 2013

Remembering a plague fighter from Penang, Dr Wu Lien-Teh

A DELEGATION of 18 people from Penang will be heading to China to attend a commemorative symposium on legendary plague fighter Dr Wu Lien-Teh who was born in Penang.

Distinguished scientist: Dr Wu, aged 77, in a photo taken in Cambridge, England, in 1956

Led by Datuk Dr Lee Kah Choon, the delegates will comprise members from the state government, investPenang, Penang Global Tourism, Penang Medical College and the newly formed Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society of Penang.

The symposium will be held from Jan 18 to Jan 20 and it will be hosted by The First Hospital of Harbin Medical University in Heilongjiang, China, along with the third Boreal Congress of Cardiology.

The event will also see participants from various organisations, medical professionals, private individuals and also members of the Old Frees’ Association.

Medical reformer: Dr Wu (fourth left, front row) working with the Russians during an epidemic in 1921 Medical reformer: Dr Wu (fourth left, front row) working with the Russians during an epidemic in 1921
“The conference will focus on Dr Wu’s great sacrifices as well as his principles and philosophies that have survived until the present day,’’ said Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society of Penang president Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal.

He said they would also promote the state in multiple ways during the visit including tourism, medical health and educational opportunities.

“We will also propose Penang as the next venue for the Dr Wu Lien-Teh and Global Health Symposium in 2014,’’ he added.

Born on March 10, 1879, Dr Wu was one of the few recipients of the prestigious Queen Victoria’s scholarship in Malaya at Emmanuel College.

Among his awards were the Cheadle gold medal for clinical medicine and the Kerslake scholarship in pathology.

After furthering his studies at the School of Tropical Medicine in Germany and the Pasteur Institute in France, he returned to Malaya in 1903 to take up a post at the new Institute of Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Wu was very outspoken in his opposition to gambling and opium trade back then and served as the president of the Penang Anti-Opium Association.

His academic achievements and reputation caught the eye of Yuan Shih-kai of the Chinese Government in Beijing who offered him a post as the deputy director of the Imperial Army Medical College in Tientsin in 1907.

Dr Wu received recognition as a plague fighter who saved thousands of lives in north-east China in the early 1910s after an outbreak.

His new scientific approach prevented the killer disease from spreading.

In 1937, his villa in Shanghai, China, was bombed by the Japanese.

He then moved to Ipoh to resume his medical work.

Dr Wu was the first ethnic Chinese nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1935.

He died aged 81 after a stroke on Jan 21, 1960.

His death came barely a week after he moved into his new house in Penang for his retirement.

Until today, Dr Wu’s accomplishment is still recognised at the Penang Free School which named one of its school houses after him, bearing the green colour.

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