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The Firsts and Pioneers

Liu Ruiheng

 

 

Liu Ruiheng, President of Union Medical College Hospital, Distinguished Physician

Liu Ruiheng also known as, Yueru was born in 1890. His ancestral home was Nangong, Zhili) He was admitted to Peiyang University in 1903 and in 1906 he was sent, before graduation, to Harvard University for further studies. He was a distinguished physician in China, the founder of traumatology in China, the founder of public health systems in the modern history of China, He was among the first group of Chinese students who studied at Harvard.

 

After obtaining his Bachelor of Science from Harvard University in 1909, Liu Ruiheng pursued his studies in medical science for 6 yeas and obtained a doctorate degree from Harvard University in 1915. In the same year, he returned to China and taught at Shanghai Harvard Medical School. In 1918, he was invited to be a surgical professor at Beiping Union Medical College Hospital. In 1920, he went to US to study cancer surgery. After returning to China, he served as president of Peking Union Medical College Hospital and president of the Chinese Medical Association. He was the first Chinese president in the history of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital.

 

In 1924, a village in Tongzhou reported frequent cases of infant deaths. Liu, then president of Peking Union Medical College Hospital, investigated and found that the deaths were caused by postpartum tetanus. He organized a brief training for hospital staff and solved the problem. The incident had a profound impact on him. Liu believed that the meaning of medical science is to serve the general public, and therefore he started to promote the importance of public health. In the following year, the first Health Office was established in Beijing under the joint effort of Liu Ruiheng and J.B. Grant, an American professor of public health in the Peking Union Medical College, which signified the establishment of public health in China. Liu’s profound influence over his students in the Peking Union Medical College was that he encouraged them to serve the country, but not to open private clinics. Therefore, during that time, there were a large number of graduates from Peking Union Medical College who dedicated themselves to medical studies or public health services.

 

On March 12th 1925, a funeral was held in the auditorium of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. It was the funeral of Sun Yat-sen, a surgeon in his early years and later a revolutionary. The last two months of his life was spent mostly in the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. On the last day of 1924, Sun Yat-sen, in poor health, came to Beijing. He had extreme difficulty in reading out the 300-word “Beijing Declaration” because of his deteriorating health. When it was suggested that Sun receive medical care in the German hospital on Dongjiaominxiang, he said “Dongjiaominxiang is in the concession. I am not going.” He finally chose the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, where Liu Ruiheng was the President.

 

Sun Yat-sen was hospitalized on January 26th 1925, at which point, he was too ill to eat. In the afternoon, Sun received the laparotomy by Liu Ruiheng, a surgical expert and president of the hospital, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Notice of Sun’s critical condition was issued on 17 February. On 12 March, Sun Yat-sen passed away. A 13-page report, No. 9954, named “Sun Yixian”, has been kept until now in the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. There are some photos of the specimen of the organ. For a long time it was believed that Sun Yat-sen had died of liver cancer. A report was revealed by a doctor from the hospital in 1999 at a conference where scholars from across the straits met and exchanged thoughts of the achievements of Sun Yat-sen. The truth was then revealed that Sun Yat-sen died of gall bladder cancer.

 

The Ministry of Health (later changed its name to the Department of Health) of the Republic government was established in Nanjing in October 1928, signifying the beginning of official efforts in public health and medicine in China. Liu Ruiheng successively served as the Vice Minister and Minister of the Ministry of Health, Commander of the Department of Health, and Chairman of the Smoke Banning Committee. He was also engaged in the establishment of the Central Hospital and appointed as the President. He was given the responsibility of cooperating with the International Union Technology in the establishment of the Central Laboratory of Medical Facility. He was the head of three of the top medical institutions, and responsible for the administration, technology, and, medicine and health. In 1932, he received the orders and set up Chief Inspection Department of the Military Medical Unit, and served as the chief inspector and the president of the Medical School of Ground Force. More professionals were needed as the work of health and medicine expanded. Liu Ruiheng believed that promoting and improving medical education was fundamental to the development of public health and medicine, and therefore suggested and set up the National Dental School, Central Nursing Schools, Central Labor & Maternity School, Medicine and Health Education College of Central University, enabling the training of health and medical staff. Liu Ruiheng dedicated his life to the cause of Chinese health and medicine. He is a bright star in medicine in the modern history of China.

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