China's devoted doctors become modern heroes

Wang Yong
Through their tireless commitment to patients and deep medical knowledge, China's courageous doctors are a source of inspiration.
Wang Yong
Chinas devoted doctors become modern heroes

(From left) Zhong Nanshan, Zhang Boli and Zhang Dingyu

Images of three people pop into my mind as I ponder the meaning of China's Medical Workers’ Day, which falls today.

The first is that of Zhang Dingyu, who, despite suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis which makes walking difficult, devoted himself to treating COVID-19 patients during a challenging time when the virus was still little understood. As president of a leading infectious disease hospital in Wuhan, he found himself on the front line at the end of 2019. He was often seen — thanks to Douyin (known overseas as TikTok) and other new media — wobbling his way through different wards to guide patients' treatment. 

His intensive work further slowed his steps. Sometimes it took him 15 minutes to move just 200 meters, as his legs suffered from what’s commonly referred to as "frozen muscles." In those early days of close combat with the virus, Zhang’s image of racing against time in teetering steps moved me and many others to tears. He deserved the honorary title of "People’s Hero," which the country conferred on him earlier this month.

Zhang is in his 50s, while the other two heroes are more senior in age. Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory expert, is in his 80s; and Zhang Boli, a TCM expert, is in his 70s. Zhong received the Medal of the Republic for his honest appraisal and professional treatment of COVID-19, and the elder Zhang was given the title of "People’s Hero" for his professional skills and selfless service that helped contain the spread of COVID-19 at an early stage.

In a Xinhua report released on August 17, Zhong was hailed for his capacity to seek truth from facts. As soon as he discovered that COVID-19 could spread among humans, Zhong called for heightened preventive measures. In no time, his team came up with solutions that contributed to the treatment of severe cases and breakthroughs in scientific research.

With the help of TCM therapies suggested by Zhang Boli, many patients diagnosed with fever or suspected of COVID-19 infection were successfully treated. For example, a modular hospital he directed in Wuhan treated and cured more than 500 patients with TCM therapies from February 12 to March 10, none of whom relapsed. He so overworked himself that he had to undergo surgery to have his ailing gall bladder removed in Wuhan. A couple of days after the surgery, he was back at work.

I can see images of many more heroes — sung or unsung — who show us that a happier, healthier life is possible.

My hats off to my country's nearly 4 million doctors who are with us whenever we need them most.

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