March 10, would have been the 138th birthday of Dr Wu Lien-Teh.
Born in Penang in 1879, Dr Wu was truly one of the greatest public health specialists and legends of the last century.
Let me touch on his many distinctions. He set up the Anti-Opium Society in Malaysia at a time that the UK had banned opium selling but their colonies practised double standards and still allowed its sale and use.
He was the first Malaysian to graduate from the University of Cambridge in Medicine in 1902, always with the best results and the top awards. He was later honoured by several other prestigious universities with honorary doctorates.
He fought against colonial racism(at that time in some colonies, only Europeans could travel first class) and succeeded.
He was “The Plague Fighter”, who saved China from a devastating pneumonic plague a century ago and spent over two decades there developing their health systems.
Dr Wu started the China Medical Association, now the largest in the world, and wrote the classic “The History of Chinese Medicine” (1932).
He was the first Malaysian to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in the mid-1930s.
Dr Wu set up some 20 modern hospitals in China and has been honoured with a museum dedicated to him in the historic city of Harbin, China. A public library in Perak was also set up by him.
Dr Wu died in Penang in 1960. A garden was named after him near the Penang Free School where he studied and his ashes are at the Batu Gantung Crematorium.
The University of Harbin, China, recently set up the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Institute.
We believe that this new institute will be a beacon for new and inspirational knowledge on public health issues and we have signed an MoU with them.
We have also signed an MoU with the United Nations University – International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) to organise a global lecture in his name annually.
To honour Dr Wu’s work and to inspire new and future generations, the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society has also set up the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Research Awards.
Each of the six awards come with a certificate, a medal and cash prize.
There will be two components to the awards, the Young Investigators Award and the Research Poster Award.
The awards will be presented annually at the National Conference for Clinical Research organised by the Ministry of Health of Malaysia.
Our hope is that this forgotten medical legend becomes part of every medical school, under curriculum on the medical history of Malaysia.
One of our hopes is that Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) will become a place to acknowledge this legend as the Tunku and Dr Wu Lien-Teh were good friends. Some of the possibilities include naming the new medical faculty and a major auditorium after him and reprinting the book “The History of Chinese Medicine.”
Join the society (www.wulientehsociety.org.) and support the legacy and inspirational work of this truly Malaysian legend.
Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal President The Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society Penang