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Sun, Aug 19, 2001 - Page 2 News List

53-year-old `whiz dad' enters NTU medical school


A 53-year-old man surnamed Chen was recently admitted to the National Taiwan University College of Medicine, becoming the oldest freshman in the history of Taiwan's most prestigious medical school.

Chen in July passed the hotly contested Joint University Entrance Examination to determine university placements -- the final time Taiwan's educational system will hold such a test -- to become one of the 180 government-financed freshmen admitted to the university's medical school for the 2001 academic year.

The company owner-turned-student was the focus of attention at an orientation program for new NTU medical school students that began Friday.

Chen oriented himself at his new school in the company of his son, who is a fifth-year medical student at the same university.

The younger Chen said that he does not feel "strange" that his father will become a junior university mate of his, saying that "my dad has the right to do whatever he chooses to do."

The older Chen is expected to study at the NTU medical school for seven years before doing his residency at publicly-run medical centers for a further four years.

By the time he successfully completes the program and is ready to serve as a licensed doctor, he will already be 64 years old, one year younger than the age that ordinary public functionaries are eligible to retire at.

Chen's "case" has raised questions about whether there should be admission age restrictions for government-subsidized medical school students and also whether precious educational resources should be spent on people who might be too old to work by the time they complete their studies.

In response to such questions, Tan Kai-yuan (譚開元), director of the Bureau of Medical Affairs under the Cabinet-level Department of Health, said the department has never before had someone of Chen's advanced age become a government-subsidized medical school student, but he added that does not necessarily mean his admission is illegal or undesirable.

Tan said that Chen's success on Taiwan's difficult joint entrance exam is confirmation of his study abilities, adding that a person of a more senior age studying medical care for the elderly, which has gained increasing prominence worldwide in the modern age, may have some advantages.

Lee Mao-hua (李懋華), the deputy director of the department's Bureau of Medical Affairs, said that there are no age restrictions on government-subsidized medical school admissions and that the department is not planning to impose any.

"We believe that older people are equally capable of contributing to society and to the country," he added.

The senior Chen defended himself against critics of admitting older students, saying "a fair and equitable society should allow everybody opportunities to challenge themselves."

"Shouldn't social and educational resources be distributed equally to every member of society, even regardless of age?" he asked his opponents.

Chen said that by being admitted he has finally been able to fulfill his dream of 30 years by being admitted to medical school.

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