Chi­nese bene­fac­tors honor fa­mous doc­tor

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By NA LI in Toronto re­nali@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Thanks to a gen­er­ous gift from Chi­nese phi­lan­thropists, the Univer­sity of Toronto has un­veiled a sculp­ture com­mem­o­rat­ing the re­mark­able life and work of Dr. Nor­man Bethune.

Bethune, a grad­u­ate of the univer­sity’s med­i­cal school, died of sep­ticemia in a Chi­nese moun­tain vil­lage in 1939 and is re­mem­bered as an in­ven­tive bat­tle­field sur­geon and an in­ter­na­tion­al­ist who helped to cre­ate strong and last­ing ties be­tween China and Canada.

Chi­nese phi­lan­thropists Mr. Zhang Bin and Mr. Niu Gen­sheng con­trib­uted $800,000 to cre­ate the life-sized work and sup­port for new med­i­cal stu­dent awards in Bethune’s name. The un­veil­ing was fol­lowed by a gala din­ner May 30 as part of the univer­sity’s Fac­ulty of Medicine’s Bethune Legacy Cel­e­bra­tion, which rec­og­nizes his in­ter­na­tional im­pact on health and the Fac­ulty’s as­so­ci­a­tions with China.

“You get the sense from Bethune’s life and work that he very much be­lieved in go­ing where he was needed, do­ing good work there and truly help­ing people. I think that spirit is very much alive at the Fac­ulty of Medicine to­day. We con­tinue to do im­por­tant work that fur­thers the cause of hu­man health to­gether with our part­ners around the world,” said Catharine White­side, Dean of the Fac­ulty of Medicine.

Bethune (1890-1939) is con­sid­ered re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ing mo­bile blood-trans­fu­sion ser­vice for the front­line in the Span­ish Civil War in the 1930s. In 1938 he trav­eled to China and dur­ing the Sec­ond Sino-Ja­panese Civil War, he treated civil­ians as well as wounded soldiers, ef­fec­tively bring­ing mod­ern medicine to ru­ral China.

Artist David Pel­let­tier was cho­sen to cre­ate the sculp­ture. To ar­rive at a fresh pre­sen­ta­tion of the sur­geon and in­ven­tor, Pel­let­tier stud­ied Bethune bi­ogra­phies and pho­to­graphs from the two years he spent in China at the end of his life. He was as­ton­ished by the im­ages of Bethune, at age 49, bro­ken by the de­pri­va­tions of war, look­ing like a man in his 70s. He be­gan to imag­ine Bethune as physi­cian and hu­man­i­tar­ian.

Then Pel­let­tier started think­ing about the set­ting of the planned sculp­ture — not in China, but in a tri­an­gle of grass sur­rounded by trees at the Univer­sity of Toronto (U of T) where the Graven­hurst, Ont. na­tive com­pleted his med­i­cal de­gree in 1916. A spot where Bethune likely would have walked, and per­haps paused in con­tem­pla­tion.

NA LI / CHINA DAILY

Dr Nor­man Bethune’s statue

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