Centenarian thoracic surgeon honored

(China Daily) 09:43, July 19, 2021

Xin Yuling at his office in the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Pioneering doctor who set up capital's China-Japan Friendship Hospital inspired to save by wartime experience

Xin Yuling, retired thoracic surgeon, centenarian and former president of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, was awarded the July 1 Medal, the Party's highest honor, for his contribution to the country's medical sector.

Due to his health, Xin's daughter received the medal at the award ceremony held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on behalf of her father, who was born in 1921.

She told the media that he was happy and grateful after finding out that he was being given such an honor. He has been a member of the Communist Party of China since 1939.

Currently bed-bound, Xin still bears a scar on his left arm from a wound stitched up by Henry Norman Bethune, the well-known Canadian doctor who served alongside the Eighth Route Army during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), and who was one of the country's honored foreign nationals.

When the war broke out, the Communist Party of China's Central Committee called for the people and militaries to unite and fight.

Though only 16 at the time, Xin was determined to help the people and the country by joining the army. He was sent to join Bethune's medical team in May 1939.

The Canadian doctor's operating room was on the front line of the battle, and he sometimes worked for more than 69 hours without a break. The young man was deeply touched by Bethune's spirit.

"I made up my mind to become a doctor just like him," Xin said. "Saving people is a noble pursuit."

In August 1951, he was sent to the Soviet Union to study thoracic surgery, as part of the first group of Chinese students sent abroad by the government.

Five years later, he returned with a doctoral degree.

Turning down the army's well-paid offer, Xin asked to work in an institution in Beijing to establish a thoracic surgery department.

Many provinces in China were not equipped with thoracic surgery departments at the time. Between 1958 and 1980, he helped train over 300 thoracic surgeons and helped 40 hospitals build thoracic departments.

Thanks to Xin, China was able to devise a comprehensive system of teaching, research and medical service in the thoracic field, and he often told students and colleagues that "everything we do is to provide patients with better treatment".

He has constantly pushed boundaries.

In 1970, he became the first doctor to successfully complete a lung transplant in China.

He also led a team studying the clinical application of acupuncture as an analgesic. In 1972, when the United States President Richard Nixon paid his first official visit to China, he and his delegation observed a surgical procedure undertaken by Xin using acupuncture in place of anesthetic.

In 1982, Xin was assigned by the State Council to lead the construction of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital. When construction finished and everything was on track, he asked to resign as head in 1985.

"I had completed the task to set up the hospital. What I wanted more than anything was to be a doctor," he said.

Shi Bin, a thoracic surgeon at the hospital who has followed Xin as a student and a surgeon for 37 years, said the doctor was forever looking for new technologies and methodologies to help patients.

Although Xin owns a number of medical patents, Shi said that he always eschewed commercial partnerships and exploitation in favor of promoting his technologies to thousands of domestic hospitals.

"All he thinks about is how he can save more lives," he added.

Much as Bethune once influenced Xin, he in turn has influenced many others. On June 11, the China-Japan Friendship Hospital formed the "Xin Yuling Medical Team".

It will provide free community health treatment and medical consultations and organize health courses.

(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Liang Jun)


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