The Greater Tainan Government unveiled a bronze bust of Wang King-ho (王金河), a famed doctor popularly known as the “Father of Blackfoot Disease,” on National Doctors’ Day on Nov. 12.
The statue was a project of the city’s Tourism Bureau to honor Wang for his work in combating blackfoot disease, a condition caused by drinking arsenic-contaminated well water. The bust was installed at the Taiwan Blackfoot Disease Socio-Medical Service Memorial Park in Beimen District (北門), where Wang used to have his clinic.
Although some locals have expressed mixed feelings about the event — because of the customary practice of honoring someone with a statue only if the individual has passed away — Wang, 98, said he did not feel that the statue was a curse, adding that he was enjoying the occasion.
“I didn’t really do any great work. Actually, I feel guilty because the local government had to go through all the trouble of carving and producing this bronze sculpture for me,” he said modestly. “Anyway, I like it.”
“It looks a lot like me, very handsome,” Wang said.
The bust was made by bronze master Hsiao Chi-lang (蕭啟郎), who highlighted Wang’s esteemed attributes of benevolence and generosity in medical service.
Wang’s eldest son, Wang Chao-lung (王朝龍), said the idea of having a bust of his father did feel odd at first, but he later decided not to refuse the bureau’s good intention.
Greater Tainan Tourism Bureau Director Julian Chen (陳俊安) said the bust “is to salute Wang King-ho’s lifetime’s work on blackfoot disease.”
“His dedication and sacrifice for the cause is like the spirit of Albert Schweitzer [doctor and Nobel Peace Prize winner] for people in southern Taiwan. The Tainan government wants to commemorate his great deeds and dedication for future generations to remember,” Chen said.
Guided tours and information displays at the memorial park, along with Wang King-ho’s bust, give visitors a better understanding of the history and medical developments in blackfoot disease, as well as the doctor’s unselfish service to society, he added.
With the aid of the Mustard Seed Mission, a Christian charity, Wang King-ho set up a free clinic for the treatment of blackfoot disease in the then-Beimen Township in 1960.
That began his more than 25 years of practice mainly dedicated to the treatment of blackfoot disease. At one time, the clinic took in more than 80 patients who lived and were treated for free at the clinic.
For patients who died destitute, Wang King-ho also helped pay for their funeral expenses.
After World War II, Wang King-ho was elected the first township chief of Beimen, and went on to serve two terms on the then-Tainan county council.
Wang is also a recipient of the Lifetime Medical Service Award and Outstanding Tainan Citizen Award for his work.