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Ageless mind

By Lin Qi (China Daily)

08:31, September 19, 2012

Xu Shaoting, 91, attends a case-analysis meeting at the General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing. (Kuang Linhua / China Daily)

A revered orthopedist comes back from retirement as a resource for his medical colleagues, Lin Qi reports.

At the age of 91, Xu Shao-ting still feels uplifted when he looks through medical records of the sick.

At 8 am every Wednesday, he arrives at the General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing, where he had served as an orthopedic doctor for five decades before retiring in 1998, but soon returned as a consulting specialist.

He no longer receives outpatients because of his age, but he examines about 15 case records every week. He listens attentively to other doctors when he attends the case-analysis meetings. From time to time he raises questions in a soft, clear voice.

"Discussing cases with young people brings back memories of those days when I worked untiringly," Xu says.

Xu is a well-known symbol of vigor and diligence in the field of orthopedics. He has made breakthroughs in the treatment of spinal cord injuries and repair of the cauda equine, a bundle of nerves in the spinal column. Two textbooks he edited have become required references for orthopedic and rehabilitation doctors.

Zhang Guangbo, a retired orthopedics doctor at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and Xu's close friend, says: "He displays the demeanor of a master. He is never later for any meeting and never leaves early. He always sits in the front row and fully engages himself in the discussion."

"He is not an authority who enforces his own views on others. Instead, he is quite nice, and sometimes modest, when talking with young doctors," he says.

What has earned the utmost respect from his patients and colleagues, however, is Xu's devotion to helping people who are ill.

When Yang Xiaoxia entered Xu's consulting room in the winter of 1994, the then-12-year-old village girl from Shandong province suffered a rare disease that caused festering on both of her arms.

"My mom recalls that doctor Xu scolded them for sending me to the hospital only after my condition had severely worsened. He looked as worried about me as my parents did," she says.

Xu didn't know that a lot of hospitals had rejected the girl, because they feared that they would fail to cure her. Xu was the family's last hope.

Yang says she was told later that Xu had not known at first what disease was eating away her arms. The doctor, she says, was only focused on one thing: "to save the life of a little girl."

Xu initiated a medical race with death that gathered more than 60 specialists in Beijing. His call for donations for the Yang family in his department was picked up by the news media. Contributions eventually totaled about 870,000 yuan ($138,000).

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