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Revered pediatrician, 101, dreams of ending suffering for children

China Daily | Updated: 2021-08-20 07:25
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Zhang Jinzhe (right), 101, cheers up children who have tumors during a livestream session in May, ahead of Children's Day on June 1. [ZHANG YUWEI/XINHUA]

Zhang Jinzhe, a revered 101-year-old pediatrician in Beijing, welcomed the country's fourth Medical Workers' Day, also known as China's Doctors' Day, on Thursday.

Zhang, a chief physician at Beijing Children's Hospital affiliated with Capital Medical University, once won the Denis Browne Gold Medal, one of the world's highest honors in the field of pediatric surgery. He shot to stardom in medical circles in 1948, when as a young man he discovered new solutions for subcutaneous gangrene, a deadly infection for newborns.

As the disease was almost invariably fatal at that time, babies in the hospital died in quick succession, spreading fear among doctors. Zhang's own daughter caught the disease.

Though only a chief resident doctor, Zhang dared to challenge the disease with a novel operative treatment.

The first subject for his new treatment was his daughter.

"At that time, almost no one supported my idea, but I knew that releasing the bloody and purulent discharge from the affected areas before large-area infections took place could save their lives," Zhang said.

He performed an operation on his newborn daughter without hesitation, and it worked.

Word soon got around that an effective solution for the disease had been found, which saw the death rate from subcutaneous gangrene slump from nearly 100 percent to just 5 percent.

Two years later, Zhang set up the pediatric surgery department at Peking University First Hospital, marking a fresh start in a field once rarely touched in China.

Striving to provide patients with proper treatment, he invented or remolded more than 50 varieties of equipment used in pediatric diagnosis and operations, including clamps, membranes and valves that were named after him.

Whenever Zhang receives patients, he is always genial and warms the stethoscope by hand before using it on the children. In the eyes of most of his young patients, Zhang is more of a sweet old "grandpa".

"A good pediatrician should be one that loves children with all one's heart," he said.

Zhang set up a fund with his own money to support sick children in need. He also prepares written notes for parents as a reminder of common symptoms in children and related therapeutic methods.

"It was my birthday wish that there be no suffering for children and no sorrow for their parents on our planet," Zhang said.


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