GEORGE TOWN: The Chinese called him the Plague Fighter for his effort in containing the spread of a pneumonic plague that killed 60,000 people in China in 1910.
Dr Wu Lien-Teh (1879-1960) eventually turned out to be the only ever Malayan nominee for a Nobel Prize in medicine in 1935, and the first ever Chinese medical student at Cambridge University in 1896.
“He was the friendliest man. He was cheerful and always concerned about societal problems,” said his grandnephew, Dr James Lee, 78.
Dr Lee was one of about 50 descendants of the legendary doctor who walked the heritage trail founded by the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society
in Penang, an event in conjunction with the
Dr Wu Lien-Teh Commemorative Symposium 2014.
He said that during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya (1942-1945), Penang-based Dr Wu had moved to Ipoh and ran a private clinic.
The event was graced by Dr Wu’s descendants who returned from as far as the United States, Northern Ireland, Australia, Singapore, other than those based in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh.
Also present among the descendants were the last surviving son John Wu, grand-daughter Marie Lee, and distant relatives such as Foong Thim Leng, who was the former Ipoh bureau chief of The Star.
The trail included a visit to Ng Kongsi, the family’s ancestral clan house on King Street, the United Hokkien Cemeteries columbarium where Dr Wu’s ashes are kept and Penang
Free School, his alma mater.
They also witnessed the unveiling of a 150kg bronze bust of Dr Wu at Penang Medical College, which is donated by the First
Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University.
University representative Professor Ye Tian said Dr Wu founded the university in 1920, after helping to arrest the Chinese plague.
“He established more than 20 hospitals and universities in China. We consider him to be the father of modern Chinese medicine,” he said, adding that the bronze bust was made by master sculptor Dong Dou-Dou from Nanjing at a cost of RM106,000.
Also present at the unveiling were Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, Penang Medical
College president Prof Amir S. Khir, and society president Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal.
The Star has sponsored the reprint of 1,000 copies of Dr Wu’s book Plague Fighter: The Autobiography of a Modern Chinese Physician, which was published in 1959 but has since gone out of print.
The reprint is sold at RM80 at the Penang Heritage Trust.