After working throughout Africa for nearly 20 years, a retired Taiwanese army urologist has become a very popular physician in the landlocked west African nation of Burkina Faso.
Huang Chi-lin (黃其麟) was a lieutenant colonel at an army hospital at Zuoying Naval Yard in then-Kaohsiung City when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited him in 1994 to join a government-sponsored medical mission to Africa.
In the ensuing years, Huang practiced medicine throughout Africa, helping the sick in countries including Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau and Chad.
After years of service in Africa, Huang became knowledgeable in local affairs and his love for the people and cultures of the continent drove him to continue working there even after he retired from military service in 2002.
Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) learned about Huang’s post-retirement work in Burkina Faso during a visit in 2010.
During his visit, Kao stayed at the base of the Taiwanese medical corps. One morning, the minister noticed scores of stones decorated with “strange letters” and lined up in front of a clinic.
At first, Kao thought that the stones symbolized a special custom in the French-speaking country. However, he was later told that each stone represented a patient who was waiting in line to see Huang and that the words on the stones were the patients’ names.
“I was surprised by the popularity of this doctor, as indicated by the huge number of stones lined up in front of the clinic,” Kao said.
He was even more shocked when he learned that the doctor was a retired officer from the Taiwanese army.
“Huang is tall and handsome and he speaks fluent French,” Kao said, adding that he felt proud to see a former military colleague winning the respect and trust of so many people in Burkina Faso.
In addition to practicing urology, Huang treats patients who suffer from headaches, stomach pains and numerous other ailments.
When Kao returned to Taiwan, he asked Ambassador to Burkina Faso Chang Ming-chung (張銘忠) to present a class-A army medal to Huang on behalf of the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
“The medal is a symbol of the ministry’s appreciation of Huang’s devoted service to people in Africa and his contribution to the promotion of our country’s relations with Burkina Faso,” Kao said.
According to military sources, the medical corps Huang now works with is supported by medical professionals from many countries, but most of them work in Burkina Faso for only a short time. Huang is the only staff member who has been practicing medicine at the facility for more than 10 years.
Burkina Faso’s medical system lacks adequate resources and its hospitals do not have a well-devised registration system, the sources said. Patients who want to see Huang have to line up overnight at his clinic, whether they live nearby or hundreds of kilometers away.
On a directive from Kao, the MND has included the medical mission in Burkina Faso in its newly established telemedicine system that serves the Dongsha (東沙) and Nansha (南沙) islands in the South China Sea.
The inclusion of the Burkina Faso missions allows Huang to get professional medical counseling from medical staff at the MND’s Tri-Service General Hospital, military sources said.