Sun, Jun 05, 2016 - Page 12 News List

A lifelong desire to learn

Tsai A-hsin, Taiwan’s first female doctor, opened her own clinic in Taichung 90 years ago this month

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

She graduated in 1921 and returned to Taiwan and worked first as an opthamologist at a Taipei hospital and later as gynecologist. In 1924, she married Peng Hua-ying (彭華英), a notable political and social activist.

The family was frequently harassed by the authorities because of Peng’s activities, and even Tsai was suspected of being a Western spy due to her English proficiency and closeness with the church. Nevertheless, Tsai opened her own Ching Hsin Clinic (清信醫院) in Taichung in June 1926 as well as the Ching Hsin Midwife School (清信產婆學校), training about 60 students per year.


As Japan entered its military aggression period in the 1930s, the number of students dropped as people were afraid that their daughters would be sent to the battlefield because of their medical knowledge. Tsai closed her clinic and school and headed to North America in 1940, spending time at Harvard Medical School and later enrolling at the University of Toronto.

Tsai became stranded abroad due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. During this time, she received more medical training, including anesthesia, and worked at various hospitals as well as a Japanese POW camp. Here, she also ran into problems with authorities due to her Japanese citizenship, and even spent time in jail after being wrongly accused of operating without a license.

Finally, she returned in 1946 to a very different homeland. After the 228 Incident, her desire to leave Taiwan was solidified. In 1953, she left with her new husband, a pastor surnamed Gibson, and settled in Canada. Her desire to learn never ceased — even at almost 60 years old, she headed south to study at Columbia University’s School of Public Health.

Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.

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