Chen Daoda, a Ward-dwelling Doctor in Wuhan Union Hospital

December 21, 2015


In the domestic circle of gastrointestinal surgery, 80-year-old professor Chen Daoda is famous for his solid academic foundation and great clinical accomplishments while among those ordinary patients in Union Hospital, he is well known for his living in the wards all year round and regarded as the  easiliest-accessible professor. He said: “It's difficult for a patient to find experienced doctors After work-time or in holidays when in emergency. For me, staying in the ward is a pleasant thing.”

There is a rule in the hospital that young doctors are on night duty  and only when there is some case serious or emergent will the experienced upper-level doctor join in. It’s really hard for patients to find such an experienced doctor as Chen Daoda after work.

In his timetable, the needs of patients are the most important. Since 1980s, he has set another “home” in the award. Apart from making diagnosis and operation, for other time, he lived in a narrow cubic space in the ward so that the patients were just besides him. Even now when he has retired for more ten years, he keeps that habit.

So whether it’s in daytime or at night, Chen Daoda’s thin profile can always be viewed in the ward. When a patient’s health is in an unsteady state, relatives can always knock out his door. His home is just 10 minutes’ walk from the ward but he is so busy that his wife delivers his lunch or dinner to him. “I’m in the ward for at least 20 hours a day so it's easy for the patient to find me.” he said with a smile.

Because of lifetime company with patients, Chen doesn’t have much time to enjoy ordinary people’s life. However, he lived this lifestyle for ten years but he thought it pleasant and worthwhile. He said:” I never felt that was painful, on the contrary, being busy made me joyful.”
A bottle of medicine “costs” several bags of crops

Professor Chen was born in Puxi, Hubei Province in 1935. In 1960, he got his bachelor’s degree in the Department of Medicine of the Wuhan Medical School. Three years later, he got his master’s degree in the Union Hospital affiliated to Wuhan Medical School. Since then he has worked in the hospital. Even though he is a famous professor now, he always says that he is a son of the peasant. He always pays special attention to the patients of remote rural area and tells his students to consider more and save more for the patients since a bottle of medicine costs several bags of crops.

While performing operation for hemorrhoids, doctors may use their  hands to suture the incision, which is so painstaking that many are not willing to do so. Now the use of anastomat in operation  makes the suture easier but costs the patients 5,000-6,000 more yuan. Chen will tell the patients the two methods and as long as the patient chooses to hand sewing, he will never decline although after operation he is backbreaking.
In the past, after operation, a nutrition canal need to be put in the patients with gastrointestinal problems. Feeding through this canal can not only supplement nutrition but also maintains the normal function of intestines. However it makes the management of the doctors and nurses difficult. Nowadays, there are more and more medicine for supplementing nutrition so the practice of putting nutrition canal is less and less common. At the same time the cost for patients  increases. For other patients in poor financial standing, Chen always sticks to the traditional practice.

Chen said: “ Besides trying our best to help the patients, we doctors also need to save for the patient.”

Slow in Words and Brave in Challenge

Chen is not eloquent and looks a little  unnatural in the spotlight. However, he communicates quite well with his patients and patients always follows what he says..
In 2004, a patient with advanced gastric cancer turned to him. Due to physical weakness and a high weight of 98 kg, the risk of removing the tumor is very high. Before coming here, the relatives of the patient have consulted many other doctors but received no satisfactory replies, they even prepared to give up.

After series of inspections, Chen comforted the patients by saying” Based on my experience and ability, I may extend your life by performing an operation on you”.

Doubtlessly, those words put him under great pressure and risks.  However for patients, even if there is only a glimpse of chance, he will try to save the patients without considering his own reputation or pressure. Finally, the operation was a great success and the patient live well till now. Now, that day of operation has become the festival of the whole family.

Cases like this are numerous. He said as long as a doctor thinks for the benefits of the patient, the patient is then easy to communicate and with the support of the patient, the risk of operation can be greatly reduced.

One year, right before the Spring Festival eve,  a patient with Gastric and duodenal ulcer was sent to Union Hospital. The patient had two operations in another hospital.Serious complication arises with duodenal ulcer,Intra abdominal hemorrhage, subphrenic abscess, empyma persistent high fever, severe dyspnea. Generally speaking, doctors dared not to receive this kind of patient. The patient’s family were getting impatient. Chen performed operation on him, even failing to eat his New Year’s dinner. After living in the hospital for half a year, the patient recovered.

Now, many patients will round many hospitals and finally find Chen for his great reputation. Their diseases are very complicated with a high risk in operation. However they said: “we believe Professor Chen and even if there is a risk, we are willing to take.”

 An abundance of achievements and a galaxy of talents

 “ Keep a low profile, be focused on your academic pursuits and strive for your career” is Chen’s motto which he uses to guide him. In students’ impression, their teacher is either working in the ward or reading medical books in the office. When asked this, he said pleasantly:” knowledge needs updating. I have some foundation but I also tried to seek improvements which can be used to enhance the treatment effects.”

It’s because of such determination and knowledge that makes Chen achieve great success in his medical career. He is among the first group of State Council government allowance experts, the vice headman of the 1st to 3rd Gastrointestinal Surgery group of the Chinese Medical Association , the editor of various kinds of medical magazines as well as the model worker in national health system. He published over 280 academic papers in domestic and international periodicals. He had three projects funded by National Science Foundation of China. He gained the project”State Key Task 95”, 863 project and many provincial and ministerial scientific research projects funds . 11 projects of him were awarded with  Provincial Science and Technology Progress Prize and he was even awarded with the second prize of the National Health Department Science and Technology Progress for his achievements in the creative research of the surgery treating methods of ulcerative diseases, which greatly facilitated the progress of gastrointestinal surgery in China.

Chen is not only the good doctor of patients but also the virtuous teacher of students. His useful guidance and thoughtful care haunted every student and aroused their gratitude. He always made use of the time on night duty to discuss some clinical issues with his students so that they can apply what they have learnt to practice. He also told them to keep learning and be critical. In the educational circle, Professor Chen has nurtured 32 masters, doctors and post doctors, many of whom have become the pillar of china’s surgery circle.  He also made great contribution to reliving the pain of ordinary patients and facilitating the development of the national medical cause, which is exactly what he took pride in.

Once, a reporter enthralled by his reputation came over to him and asked him” Professor Chen, can you tell me what makes a good doctor?” The senior man in his 80s thought for a while and replied simply:” responsibility and compassion.”





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