A Great Doctor, Wu Mengchao

2021-06-10 11:50:30 Guangzhou Gloryren Medical Technology Co., Ltd 222


Author: Wang Hongjia


Editor's Note: The advanced deeds and noble medical ethics of Wu Mengchao have been widely publicized by the media and have gained much attention from the whole society. This biography written by investigative writer Wang Hongjia puts Wu Mengchao in the context of a great doctor in Chinese history, and analyzes how his character or personality were formed and how his knowledge were gained in his motherland in the twentieth century. Every nation has a figure of which it is proud, and Wu Mengchao is one of such figures. He is a distinguished academician who has received State Preeminent Science and Technology Award, China's top science award, and an outstanding Communist Party member with 55 years of Party service.



This is a man who was born to defeat liver cancer, a life-threatening disease to human beings.


At the time of his birth, no Chinese surgeon had ever performed a successful liver surgery, and in 1960, he broke that record by becoming the first Chinese surgeon to perform a successful liver surgery. That year, he was 38 years old.


To date, he has performed more than 14,000 liver surgeries, a number that no one could catch up with in the world. The more exciting news is that more than 9,300 of these liver cancer resections that had been performed reached a success rate of 98.5%. People will feel worse if the liver cancer recurs after surgery. However, the longest survival time of liver cancer patients who had undergone first surgery and re-operation after recurrence by Wu could be 45 years, and the patient is now 82 years old. These achievements are undoubtedly a great inspiration for mankind who is always in the battle with liver cancer.


He has a pair of “magic” hands, which are smaller than the average ones, delicate and dexterous. When he was young, he was "decentralized" to the Loess Plateau to engage in medical treatment, and also to do the farm work that all intellectuals at that time had to participate in. It was a time when it was honorable to have calluses on one’s hands. In those days, it was inevitable that his fine hands would cause him trouble, but he knew that his hands were not belonged to him, but were given to him by God to perform surgery for patients. He had been protecting his hands carefully which were more softer than a woman's hands. His hands with no calluses can feel more acutely the subtle changes inside the patient's liver... People usually think that surgeons should look with eyes when performing open surgery like on abdomen, but it is not quite true. Some tumors may grow deep in the overlapping areas of lobes of the liver, which are invisible to the eyes.


The nurse who works with him on the surgery said he has eyes growing out of his fingers. Because he sometimes doesn’t look at the abdominal cavity during surgery, but raises his head or closes his eyes to let his fingers feel the patient's tumor in the abdominal cavity... No one can see what his hands are doing inside, but could see him suddenly take out the tumor. He is 90 years old this year and is still on his duty, performing surgeries up to three each day. It's true, I see him take charge of the whole surgery. His hands, which usually shakes slightly when he holds a pen, stop shaking as soon as he holds the scalpels.


I also notice that he holds the pen as if he holds a scalpel, the pen is upright, and he writes as if he is trying to carve. Everyone always learns to write first, no matter what they are doing when growing up. Usually people won’t change the posture of holding a pen for the rest of their lives. However, this surgeon, who has been accustomed to the posture of holding a pen since his childhood, surprisingly changes the way he holds a pen.


This distinguished man is called Wu Mengchao.



Wu Mengchao didn’t know how to walk even at the age of three and grew up to be with a height of only 1.62 meters. After studying medicine, his application to become a surgeon was once rejected because of his short height. No one would have thought that this child, who finally stood up after his 3-year-old birthday, would make great achievements in the future both at home and abroad, becoming the father of Chinese hepatobiliary surgery.


He was born in Houlang Village, Minqing County, Fuzhou, China. It was a small village with beautiful mountains and clear water, but with few fields and no food. His father sailed south when he was three years old to find a way for living. Later, Wu Mengchao recalled that the reason why he could not walk at the age of three was because of severe malnutrition.


"My mother was a child bride." This is also a proof that his family was so poor. It is common in China that in the past, because of poverty, a boy could not afford to marry a girl, so when the boy was still a child, his family would adopt a girl from another poor family, and when she grew up, she would be given to the boy as his wife. This is how Wu Mengchao's mother, Xu Hongmei, came to the Wu family.


I can’t help thinking that Wu Mengchao who was born in a poor rural area, with severe congenital deficiencies, is a great inspiration to all children today, especially those living in poor rural areas! Besides his outstanding achievements, what is worth mentioning is the fact that this congenitally deficient child has become a giant in contemporary Chinese medicine!



Wu Mengchao's birthday is on the ninth day of the seventh lunar month. In China, the seventh lunar month was designated as the first month of autumn during the Shang and Zhou dynasties and was called Meng Qiu. Wu Mengchao was born in the seventh lunar month, so he was named as Meng Qiu when he was a child. When Meng Qiu attended junior high school, he renamed himself Meng Chao (Chao, to excel/transcend). This is the first sign that reveals his desire from the bottom of his heart his desire for self-improvement.


Later on, Wu Mengchao has been trying to surpass himself, to free himself from the constraints of the unfavorable environment, of the overload of his parents love. At the age of 17, he made an important decision.


When he was five years old, he went with his mother to join his father, who was working in Malaysia. The family was very poor, so the parents could only afford to send this poor child to school, only expecting that he would earn a living in the future. He was doing incredibly great in school, but there was no high school in the local for him to continue his study. His parents were determined to send him to England to continue his studies, expecting him to change the fate of the whole family with his future education. However, Wu Mengchao insisted on returning to China.


The year was 1940, when China was being ravaged by the Japanese. At the age of 17 and a half, why did Wu Mengchao leave his parents and siblings and return to China? This is a question worth us powering over.


The school he attended in Malaysia was run by local Chinese, called "Kong Hwa School", which implied the school wanted its student to be high achievers and make China be proud of them. The school was named by Mr. Sun Yat-sen, who also wrote a couplet for it, which was "Practice is  essential when one is seeking for knowledge and righteousness, while sincerity is indispensable when one is trying to live with the knowledge of doing things." This couplet became the school's motto. Knowledge not only helps a person to make a living, but there is an endless world in knowledge for a person to explore. The motherland was being invaded and the curriculum in the school changed as well. The Chinese teachers, wearing a hopeful but watery eyes, shared with the students the stories about their motherland, about justice, and about the heroes who fearlessly fought for their country. The young people were passionate. The young Wu Mengchao was the class monitor of the junior high school. In his heart, there was not only his home, but also his motherland, a vast and great motherland!


He was experiencing an important phase in his life, from caring for his home to caring for his motherland! All he wanted was to offer his blood and love to his motherland. He could no longer obey his father's wish to go to England to study just for changing the fate of his family... He knew that his parents had raised six children and had high hopes for him since he was the only child attending the school, but he insisted on going back to China... What could he do once returning back to China? To fight or to go to study? Would there be any peace in the classroom? He had no idea but was determined to going back to China. In January 1940, he returned to China with six of his classmates, which reflected the fact that there were many young people who had a passion to serve their country in those days. There must be a “personal factor” that makes Wu Mengchao become Wu Mengchao.



However, now we cannot put aside the environmental factor to search for Wu Mengchao's “personal factors". “The blood is splashing every inch of China." The severe situation in China influenced everyone's life so greatly. There was no longer a quite place for study in North China. The Peking University, Tsinghua University, Nankai University were moved to south, many teachers and students walked thousands of miles to gather in Kunming, Yunnan, and the universities were combined into one which was named the National SouthWest Associated University. "Thousands of years of shame shall be stopped soon. Excellent talents must be cultivated to rebuild China... " These were the lyrics of the school song of the National SouthWest Associated University.


The Japanese planes and gunboats were supported by its science and technology... China, which was in deep disaster, was desperately calling for Chinese scholars to learn science and technology. The most outstanding professors and students from all over the country were gathered at the southern China. Wu Mengchao and his classmates once set foot on Kunming, they had been immersed in this unprecedented trend where every intellectuals tried hard to learn, to teach to save their motherland! China was like an ocean who was crying.


Wu Mengchao became a drop in the “ocean”, where he attended high school and thereafter, like many of his classmates who harbored the ideal of industrial salvation, wanted to study science and engineering. During this period, he fell in love with a girl in his class, Wu Peiyu, who was from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Their affection to each other developed during the turmoil of war, The bombs from Japanese planes was everywhere, which killed and injured many people. Wu Peiyu's ambition was to study medicine and Wu Mengchao decided to follow her, then the two were all admitted to Tongji University Medical School.


At that time, there were many students studying either engineering or medicine, so how did Wu Mengchao stand out? It’s time to learn his “personal factor”.



However, there is another external factor that cannot be ignored.


Wu Mengchao said he is deeply influenced by his mentor Professor Qiu Fazu. Born in Hangzhou in 1914, Qiu received his PhD from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) and saved many lives in Germany during World War II. Qiu did his surgery very smoothly and quickly, with "no unnecessary movements". Even the Germans, who were known for their rigour disposition, admired him, and he was considered the father of modern Chinese surgery. In 1947, when Wu Mengchao first attended Qiu’s lecture, he was inspired. This incident was an important factor that led him to become a surgeon.


However, after graduating from medical school, his application to be a surgeon was rejected, and he became unemployed immediately after graduation. It was the year of 1949 when he was 27 years old. In August, the Second Military Medical University recruited doctors from the society, and Wu Mengchao applied for the job to be a surgeon, and there he met Zheng Baoqi, the Director of the Surgical Department. Zheng Baoqi once went to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in the United States in 1946 for further study. Zheng Baoqi accepted Wu Mengchao undoubtedly, since he saw a calm and strong personality from Wu Mengchao's eyes as well as from his brief answers to questions. Zheng Baoqi recalled that at that time all he wanted was this kind of personality, not the figure. Zheng Baoqi's sharp eyes for discovering able people can not be ignored.


But there are many branches of surgery, why did Wu Mengchao aim at liver surgery?


This should give the credit to the guidance of Qiu Fazu.


Looking back at Wu Mengchao's life path, we should learn that when one is young, one should have role models in one's heart that his admires. Qiu Fazu was indeed the "high mountain” that he should look up to. In Germany during World War II, he used to perform "all kinds of surgeries from head to toe", and treated the wounds at any part of the body caused by the bombing, which made him be familiar with all kinds of surgeries. In 1956, when Wu Mengchao was considering which specialty he should pursue, he went to Qiu Fazu for advice. His mentor told him that medical science was developing rapidly in the world, but liver surgery was still a weak discipline, and no one in China explored in this field. Qiu Fazu suggested Wu Mengchao to work on this challenging specialty.


It was not an easy decision. As the liver is covered with many vessels, a failure to stop bleeding may make it impossible to save the patient from death, so the liver is considered a no-go area for surgery. His mentor's advice was based on his understanding and trust in Wu Mengchao. Wu Mengchao listened to his mentor's advice finally. It is undoubtedly one of an important decision that leads to his success in his life as we see today.


China is a country with a high incidence of liver cancer. According to a report released in 2005, more than 120 million people in China are carriers of the hepatitis B virus, and hundreds of thousands of people are newly diagnosed with liver cancer each year worldwide, among which half of them are Chinese people. This means there is a huge demand for liver cancer treatment. Going back to 1959, China was still waiting for doctors who could perform liver surgery. Once this area is explored, great contributions are sure to be made in this field.



A man with lofty aspirations should start to do from the foundation. It is said that in 1956 when Wu Mengchao went to the library, he searched almost all the collections, and only found an English book Introduction to Hepatic Surgery. This only book was very valuable for him at that time.


Wu Mengchao came with the book to find his mentor, and Qiu Fazu told him, "Translate it into Chinese as soon as possible, so that more doctors in China can read it.”


This is an important scenario. At the beginning, Wu Mengchao had only thought of reading it, not of translating it. His mentor’s words were a great encouragement to him. Qiu Fazhou was not only thinking of Wu Mengchao, but also thinking of hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from liver cancer and the development of Chinese liver surgery. Not only did Wu Mengchao translate the book into English, he also was deeply influenced by his mentor’s spirit, always putting patients in his heart. In May 2011, Wu Mengchao stood on the podium of the Great Hall of the People to make a speech, saying that his honor "belongs to the teachers who taught me to be a good man and a good doctor... " Here, he emphasized that his teachers taught him to be a man of good virtue... "Being a good man" is more important than "a good doctor".


In 1958, Wu Mengchao handed in an application to the hospital requesting to specialize in liver surgery. The hospital passed his application, allowing him, Zhang Xiaohua and Hu Hongkai, three military doctors, to jointly work on the liver surgery. The three of them was the famous "Three-man Team" in the history of Chinese liver surgery, with Wu Mengchao as the team leader.


The author of Introduction to Hepatic Surgery was an American, and the book did not introduce hemostasis methods in liver surgery. The methods of hemostasis were the first problem that had to be solved in liver surgery. The three-man team began by studying the anatomy of the liver and, after more than 300 days, they finally made a liver blood vessel casting specimen. With the vascular structure of the liver presenting like coral, they startled when seeing thousands of large and small vessels in the liver, as if they were entering into a mysterious palace. Yet how to go deep was still a problem.


After intensive and continuous research, Wu’s team created the classical liver anatomy theory of "five lobes and four segments", laying the theoretical foundation for China’s liver surgery. In layman's terms, I think we can describe the liver as a vascular tree, with trunks and branches, and it is reasonable to divide the liver into "five lobes and four segments" according to the relatively independent vascular system of each branch. Performing liver surgery is not only for remove the tumor, but also the part of the liver where tumor invades. With the theory of "five lobes and four segments", surgeons can find out exactly where the tumor locates, and then find out the main vessels in the front of the lesion, and ligate them, then the liver lobe where the tumor grows can be removed.


With a clear understanding of the direction and distribution of liver vessels, Wu Mengchao performed the country’s first hepatectomy in 1960. they practiced the theory into reality, which marked that Chinese doctors got the key to open the door to enter the forbidden area of the liver at that time.


Liver surgery is a worldwide difficult surgery because it is difficult to stop bleeding during the surgery. At that time, the western "low temperature anesthesia" method was commonly used internationally, which meant that the patient was put into ice water after anesthesia and the body temperature would drop to below 32 degrees before surgery, which could reduce bleeding but also easily cause many kinds of infections and complications, and the mortality rate was very high as well. Wu Mengchao wanted to explore a new method. One day, when washing his hands after surgery, suddenly, he was inspired by the turning on and off of the tap. He thought, if a "handle" was installed on the patient's hepatic artery and portal vein, just like the handle of a tap, to block the blood running into the liver, and then turn on it for a while to restore the blood flow. In that way, the tumor could be removed without a large amount of blood loss, wouldn't it great?


Just as Newton was inspired by the apple falling to the ground and Watt was inspired by the boiling tea kettle, Wu Mengchao was inspired by the handle of a tap. After repeated tests on animals, Wu Mengchao obtained the best parameters and then achieved great success in clinical trials, which resulted a great improvement of the success rate of the surgery to more than 90%. It was in 1963 that Wu Mengchao invented the “Normo-thermic intermittent liver inflow occlusion” to stop bleeding during liver surgery, which changed the traditional technique used in the West for a long time.


It was with this invention that Wu Mengchao performed the world's first lobectomy for a rural woman with cancer in the middle lobe of the liver in 1963, a woman named Lu Xiaofen. Why was it the "first case"? Because the middle lobe of the liver is the most vascular part of the liver. The surgeons once regarded it as the "the most no-go area". Wu Mengchao's invention and his success in performing major surgery in the middle lobe of the liver solved a big problem for the world.


At that time, Wu Mengchao proved that he had lived up to the expectations from Zheng Baoqi and Qiu Fazu with his successive breakthrough achievements. Of all times, what is more important than his medical skills is that he does have an extraordinary personality, and what is more valuable than his personality is that he has a heart that is always thinking of his patients.


He proposed to hold a refresher course to teach all the surgeons in China the liver anatomy theory of "five lobes and four segments" and the new liver surgery techniques he invented. Some people once reminded him that surgeons rely on their skills, so if you give out your knowledge to others, you will lose your advantage. He said, “There are hundreds of thousands of liver cancer patients in China, we can't save so many patients by a few of us, only by spreading the knowledge can we save more people's lives!” He prepared his own teaching materials, and presented them himself, and taught the new surgical techniques to surgeons who came for training without reservation, cultivating more than 1,000 heirs of "Wu's Scalpel Technique". This had greatly increased the overall level of surgical techniques in liver surgery in China and led China to stand out in the world liver surgery community.


This shows that there are people who are willing to serve patients wholeheartedly, and this is the “soul” of Wu Mengchao's superb medical skills.


Wu Mengchao's breakthrough achievements were made in the years when China and the West were blocked from each other, but his invention “Normo-thermic intermittent liver inflow occlusion” still was spread to the West, which is Wu Mengchao's contribution to all human being. After the reform and opening up, Wu Mengchao was invited to attend the 28th World's Congress of Surgery in San Francisco, USA in September 1979, which was attended by more than 2,000 surgical experts from over 60 countries, and was the highest level meeting in surgery in the world. Wu Mengchao's 15-minute academic report at the congress was called "Wu's whirlwind in San Francisco".


Wu Mengchao’s reported cases and figures amazed the West. For example, the success rate of liver cancer surgery has reached 91.2%, the mortality rate of surgery is only 8.8%, and 6 cases have survived for more than 10 years... Medicine is a world language, and from the surgeon's side, these are not boring numbers, they are like Beethoven's "Symphony of Destiny". All doctors can understand the great meaning to life and human being that contained in those numbers, as well as all the hardships paid for them.



I have not counted the number of graduate students that are under Wu Mengchao’s guidance, but I think what is more important than the number is that Wu Mengchao encourages his students to surpass him. As you know, the “Normo-thermic intermittent liver inflow occlusion” is the classic surgical technique invented by Wu Mengchao. With his encouragement, his student Prof. Zhou Weiping and Prof. Ynag Jiamei invented other two surgical techniques respectively in 2004 and in 2006. The surgical techniques for liver surgery have been refined over and over again, and the success rate of the surgery has been increasing as well. We can see that what Wu Mengcha concerns the most is his patients.


Some surgeons believe that Wu Mengchao has indeed cultivated students who can be his equal in surgery. What I admire even more is that Wu Mengchao has trained many graduate students who are not to be a surgeon. This can be traced back to Wu Mengchao's return to China after the World's Congress of Surgery in San Francisco in 1979. Instead of reveling in the praise, he saw that surgical treatment alone could not fundamentally solve the problem of liver cancer in China and he shifted the focus to basic research in his talent training project since then. In that year, he recruited the first graduate students, Chen Xunru and Tu Zhenxing, and set the direction of research to "early diagnosis of liver cancer" for them.


He led the establishment of the first laboratory for basic research in liver cancer in China, and used his influence to send his students to study in Europe and the United States one after another. Nowadays, Wu Mengchao's students who have become leaders in the field of hepatology in China are all selected and trained by Wu Mengchao from the ordinary doctors and students.


For example, Wang Hongyang, who was a physician in the Department of Gastroenterology at Changzheng Hospital of the Second Military Medical University in 1987, was recommended by Wu Mengchao and Qiu Fazu to study in Germany. Years later, Wu Mengchao invited her back and helped her establish a research laboratory in China; he also personally went to the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, where Wang Hongyang was engaged in research at the German Academy of Sciences, and sought for cooperation with the institute. Soon under Wu Mengchao's leadership, the Sino-German Cooperation Center for Biological Signal Transduction Research at the Eastern Liver and Gallbladder Hospital was established. Through this platform, Wu Mengchao later sent more than fifty graduate students abroad for further study. In 2005, Wang Hongyang became an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


Prof. Guo Yajun, one of the chief scientists of the National "973" Program, was Wu Mengchao's first doctoral student and was sent to the Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard Medical School for further study in 1989. The research projects in both domestic and America were very important, Wu Mengchao managed to establish a Sino-US collaborative molecular tumor laboratory in China and put Guo Yajun in charge of it. He would return to work in China for four or five months every year, while he would continue the research in the US during the rest of the year. During this period, through this platform in the United States, dozens of graduate students were sent for further study as well. This new way of doing research is called the “dumbbell model”, where basic research is conducted abroad and clinical research at home.


In this way, Wang Hongyang is like a pawn placed in Europe, while Guo Yajun in the United States, and others in Japan... In the battle of trying to conquer liver cancer, Wu Mengchao is not a mentor, but like a commander in chief. Wang Hongyang and Guo Yajun, who were sent out in this way, regardless of what they had thought at the beginning and after they went abroad, knew that they were going to study in a field that even their mentor, Wu Mengchao, did not know well, which made them all be capable of independent research and realize their commitment to make great contributions to their own country and to all the human beings.



There is also another achievement which is so prominent in Wu’s life path that I must bring it out. After the founding of the "Three-men Team", Wu Mengchao fought for a separate division department for liver surgery in the hospital, which was the first liver surgery department in China. Then he turned the liver surgery department into a hepatobiliary surgery hospital, which was developed from the Changhai Hospital, the so-called "hospital within a hospital", and at the same time established the Institute of Hepatobiliary Surgery. Later, it was separated from Changhai Hospital and became an independent Eastern Hepatobiliary Surgery Hospital. So far, it is not only the "only" in China, but also the "only" in the world, a hepatobiliary surgery hospital.


I can't help but marvel: to build an independent hepatobiliary surgery hospital, is he the only one in the whole world who has made such an effort? But so far he is the only one who has done so. This makes me think that it is because he has great expectation in his heart!


How can we fight against liver cancer and gather all the talents needed to defeat liver cancer if we lack a sizable battle fortress and a command center to take up the heavy responsibility! With this strong fighting group that gathers all talents, Wu Mengchao leads his team to conquer many difficult surgeries one after another, such as stage II resection of giant liver cancer, local radical resection of cirrhotic liver cancer, reoperation of liver cancer recurrence, laparoscopic liver tumor resection and liver transplantation.


Today, there are many kinds of methods for treating liver cancer, but many patients are not aware that people who have liver cancer may have a very different body condition and a different tumor, which should be treated individually. However, there are often only a few methods that surgeons know. A patient goes to a hospital for consultation, and the surgeon may only do one kind of resection or only do liver transplantation. After the consultation, it would be better if the patient could be advised to choose the most appropriate treatment. However, many experts, on the one hand, are too specialized to make a good judgment, on the other hand, they may be less responsible to patients... The result is that patients may receive unnecessary liver transplantation or other surgeries, which cause serious consequences that further mislead the surgeons to consider the disease is incurable at the beginning.


In the hospital led by Wu Mengchao, it is not just Wu Mengchao who has a high success rate of surgery. Why? Because in here, no matter which doctor receives the patient, he or she must first decide which treatment is the most appropriate for the patient. If the patient is no longer with the condition for surgery when he or she comes to the hospital, the doctors should first create conditions for the patient to afford the surgery, and to decide whether chemotherapy or other adjuvant treatment is needed. His hospital has also set up a Traditional Chinese Medicine Department as Wu Mengchao values the combined treatment of TCM and Western Medicine. All of these treatment protocol need to be developed and documented and will be tested. Are there any doctors who break the rules? Yes, but there is no tolerance from Wu Mengchao’s side.


Now we can examine the liver surgery situation in China. Although there are many kinds of methods for diagnosing and treating liver tumors in China, and there is a great progress, but patients are treated with inappropriate methods or over-treated, causing a disaster to the patients, and these situations exist a lot in China. This situation must not be unknown to people.


In the social context of medical progress and the marketization of hospitals are made, we can see that what is most valuable in Wu Mengchao is not his medical skills, but his heart that is always thinking of the patients. Perhaps the most valuable thing about him is his insistence on the "Wu Mengchao’s Tuesday Consultation".



Wu Mengchao once did not attend the out-patient consultation. But many patients would constantly ask him for help, since most of them had gone to many hospitals for help, but no one admitted them. How to do it?


Cheng Yue'e, the head nurse who has already assisted Wu Mengchao to perform more than 5,000 surgeries, said, "Wu's outpatients are all in the worst condition." I asked what she meant. She said, "First, they are ill badly; second, they are very poor.”


Seeing that there are so many patients who go everywhere for treatment but failed, Wu Mengchao feels guilty of himself. He resumes his "Tuesday Out-patient Consultation". As the president of the Eastern Hepatobiliary Surgery Hospital, Wu Mengchao has to deal with some administrative work on Mondays, so he schedules his consultation service on Tuesday mornings, which shows that he attaches great importance to it. He also often goes to preside over academic conferences and attend consultation meetings on major difficult diseases. Despite his busy schedule, he still insists on continuing his out-patient consultation, and if he misses the "Tuesday Out-patient Consultation", he would make up for it when he returns.


Only 12 patients could make an appointment to his "Tuesday Out-patient Consultation", and they must register with real names and provide their medical records. Only in this way, the scalpers would be cracked down, otherwise the scalpers may sell the appointment to patients for several thousand yuan.


Some people suggested that Wu Mengchao should set his registration fee higher, Wu Mengchao did not agree, and kept it as the same price as other specialists’. Wu Mengchao prepared the establishment of the liver and gallbladder hospital, and received support from many parties, but there was still a shortage of funds, and some people suggested that treatment costs in your hospital for liver cancer are quite low compared to other hospitals’, why don’t you raise your price? Then the money would come. Wu Mengchao said, “if medical costs rise to a couple of thousand yuan, for the rich it is not much, but for many people, it may stop them from entering the hospital or having the opportunity to do a surgery, and even may let them lost hope of life.”


Wu Mengchao also tries to prescribe cheaper drugs to patients and not to do unnecessary and repeated tests. He also requires all doctors in the hospital to find ways to reduce the burden for patients. Nowadays, you can do the sutures with instruments in an easy way, but at an increased cost. Wu Mengchao once said, not for a while more than 1,000 yuan is spent, which is the cost of a year of schooling for a rural child! Isn't this 90-year-old scientist who insists on sewing the wound by hand a bit like a village woman sewing clothes? It is this image that links to a great tradition.


In 2005, when Wu Mengchao was recommended for the highest national science and technology award, his superiors sent someone to scrutinise his performance and they planed to talk to him the next morning. The hospital considered this a major issue and canceled his scheduled surgery. When Wu Mengchao was informed of this, he insisted that the surgery could not be postponed. The member of the appraisal team were puzzled: what kind of patient was he and how could he be so important? The next afternoon, when they talked, they could not help but ask, "Prof. Wu, for who you’ve done the surgery in the morning?" Wu Mengchao said, "A farmer from Henan Province, who is very sick and whose family is poor, comes to Shanghai with money from his relatives, and one more day of hospitalization is a burden to him. I am really sorry to keep you waiting for me." The member of the appraisal team listened with awe. What else can they say?



Today, the Eastern Hepatobiliary Surgery Hospital under the leadership of Wu Mengchao is still a world leader in the surgical treatment of liver cancer. And its level in basic research and drug research also reaches to the world's advanced level and each has its own strengths, but it is still lagging behind in the development of drugs.


At present, the Eastern Hepatobiliary Surgery Hospital is building a liver cancer research and prevention center of the largest scale in the world in Anting, Shanghai, which will be a great monument that Wu Mengchao has been fighting for his whole life.


Every nation has its own figures to be proud of. In Chinese history, there is no surgeon that makes people more prouder than Hua Tuo. He used a general anaesthetic combining wine with a herbal concoction called mafeisan (literally "cannabis boil powder") to perform a caesarean section for a patient, which is the earliest record of the use of general anesthesia for surgical treatment in the history of world medicine. Hua Tuo was revered as the "Father of surgery". Hua Tuo was born in a prestigious family, which was already in decline by the time of Hua Tuo's birth. His name "Tuo" means "bear" and implies that the family expected him to revitalize the family. When he grew up, Hua Tuo shouldered a more heavier burden. He lived at the late Eastern Han Dynasty, when wars were frequent and epidemics were prevalent. Wang Can, a famous poet of that time, wrote a poem entitled "A Song of Seven Sorrows", saying, "As I leave the city gates, I see nothing before me, save white bones covering the level fields.” Hua Tuo was not only a surgeon, but he was also proficient in internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, acupuncture and moxibustion, as well as pharmacology, on the basis of which he created "mafeisan". He was a doctor who tried every possible way to release the people from illness. He did not want to be an official in his life, but wanted to travel to the world, practicing medicine and saving countless lives.


The most famous King of Medicine in China was Sun Simiao, whose hometown, Sunjiayuan in Yao County, Shaanxi Province, has the most spectacular the King of Medicine Temple in China, which also has a hall for descendants to commemorate Sun Simiao's parents. His parents could never have thought that their son, who had a poor health since he was a kid, would later become a famous doctor for thousands of years. At a time when women was considered of low life, Sun Simiao had wrote a medical book, Beiji Qian Jin Yao Fang ("Essential Formulas for Emergencies [Worth] a Thousand Pieces of Gold"), and put Fu Ren Fang ("Essential Formulas for Women") as the first chapter of his book, and Shao Xiao Ying Ru Fang ("Essential Formulas for Infants and Children") the second chapter, which helped to lay the foundation for the development of Chinese medicine in gynecology and pediatrics. What is a thousand pieces of gold? Sun Simiao wrote in the preface, "People’s lives are of the utmost importance, and they are more precious than a thousand pieces of gold."


Why would they be the master in medicine in Chinese history? It is all because they had a heart full of great compression to lives that inspired them to sharpen their medical skills to save more lives and finally mastered the superb medical skills. This kind of doctor is called a great doctor. 


Wu Mengchao inherits their great spirit. At the age of 90, Wu Mengchao is still working tirelessly for the construction of the new hospital in Anting, Shanghai. In fact, he is thinking far ahead and doing his best for the prevention and treatment of liver cancer before his death. Through this large-scale liver cancer research and prevention center, he expects to bring together talents from China and the world who are interested in this field, and through 30 to 50 years of hard work, to find the way to prevent the liver cancer and treat it, and finally defeat it! So, I believe Wu Mengchao comes to this world with a mission to fight against liver cancer.


 (This article was published in the Study Times on July 4, 2011.)



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