Tue, Apr 12, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Synergy in relations and medicine

By Nina Solarz

On April 3, Hsiao Shih-hsin (蕭世欣), a Taiwanese physician at Taipei Medical University who also holds a doctorate, arrived in Washington to begin a two-year research fellowship at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the most prestigious governmental research institutions in the world. The story of Hsiao’s odyssey began many decades ago when then US representative Stephen Solarz became chairman of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs.

During the 1980s, my late husband, Stephen Solarz (Steve), and other members of the US House and Senate assisted members of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) and Taiwanese living in exile in the US, to bring democracy to Taiwan through the cessation of martial law and acceptance of opposition political parties. By 2000, a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party was elected president.

About 10 years ago, Steve was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and was accepted for treatment at NIH. Even after exceptional care and state-of-the-art treatment protocols, four-and-a-half years later he succumbed to the disease. My family and I, and his many friends, decided to establish a memorial fund at the Foundation for NIH in Steve’s memory to help research for potential cures for cancer and to thank Steve’s fabulous doctors at the NIH for his care.

For four years, the Stephen J. Solarz Memorial Fund has been supporting the research of David Schrump, an incredible surgeon who was primarily responsible for Steve’s medical care while he was battling his illness. This research has yielded ground-breaking results in immunotherapy wherein the immune system is stimulated to fight cancer.

As part of the fund’s activities we decided to carry on Steve’s consuming interest in the field of international affairs by selecting worthy young doctors from places where Steve had concentrated his attentions.

These promising researchers and doctors come to work at NIH as fellows in the research laboratory with Schrump. The fellowships are two-year, fully funded grants designed to teach the most advanced research techniques to highly qualified young physicians or doctoral graduates so that they can return to their own countries and use their newly acquired knowledge to benefit their communities.

Remembering vividly Steve’s affinity for Taiwan and his strong ties to the Taiwanese community in the US and his friends in Taiwan, my son and grand-daughter and I visited Taipei a year-and-a-half ago. I had returned to Taiwan myself about two years before, my first visit there in many years, when FAPA president and legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) organized events to honor Steve’s memory.

In 2014, when we went to Taiwan as a family, our trip was with the intention of possibly awarding one of the Stephen Solarz Memorial Fellowships to a worthy, young Taiwanese doctor.

Before we left for Taiwan, I was in touch with old friends and colleagues of Steve’s, one of whom was Tsai Wan-tsai (蔡萬財), then chairman of the Fubon Group. It was my hope to inform our old friends about the fellowship and secure their assistance in identifying suitable candidates and support. The reaction I received was touching and reaffirming.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in Taipei, Tsai had passed away, but his son Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠) most graciously arranged for us to meet with other members of the family, as well as senior associates in some of Fubon’s companies and institutions. We also had many wonderful meetings and social events with friends — both new and old — physicians, heads of medical schools and hospitals, and even potential candidates for the fellowship.

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