DING Wenxiang

On Monday mornings, the top-floor meeting room at the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center-Heart Center gets crowded, and people there are all waiting for the arrival of Ding Wenxiang, a grey-haired doctor. He is the founder and first president of the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and the founder of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery in China.

Congenital heart disease has long been taken as one of the major diseases which endanger the health and life of children in China, especially those under the age of five. Not until the 1950s and 1960s had China started its diagnosis and treatment of this disease so that quite a lot of children had lost lives due to the absence of effective treatment; and some infants even died inside the wombs of their mothers, without any chance of catching a ray of light in this world.

It’s an essential task for China to improve its diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular surgery for children. Speaking of that, a name would never be forgotten: Ding Wenxiang, now 92. In the 1960s, Ding led an ambitious team to create the first cardiovascular surgery department for children from scratch in China with their wisdom and tedious work, and since then has been devoted to improving it.

Though in his nineties, Ding insisted on going to work every week. Ding and his team complete more than 3,000 operation cases for children with cardiovascular disease every year, with a 98% success rate. However, a couple of years ago, this surgery was still absent in China, many children suffering from cardiovascular disease thus lost their lives due to lack of treatment. Therefore, Ding determined to start from scratch to build such surgery department in China. “Why can’t we do it? If other people can, we can,” he said.

Ever since then, Ding led his team to thrust into this forbidden zone of medicine and made independent innovations. From simple surgical instruments and to home-made high-tech heart-lung machines for children, there have now been around 100 kinds of medical equipment named after him. “We’ve got engaged in the R&D of congenital heart disease not just for research’s sake; all what we’ve done are for children, and for children only.”

In 2010, Ding Wenxiang was granted the lifetime achievement award by WSPCHS, becoming the first people in Asia to win such a honor. After the development of half a century, the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center-Heart Center has become one of the largest center for diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases for infants and children in the world. The Center is now a trump card in China’s pediatric medicine.

When talking about his 70-year-long medical practice, Ding said, “it’s my most important pursuit to create the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and the cardiothoracic surgery department. I’m very happy to see my wishes realized. I’m very proud of my contributions in the health undertaking for Chinese children. I hope that the Center will continue climbing up to the higher peaks of medicine, pass this spirit to the next generation, and promote better the undertaking of China’s pediatrics.”