Wed, Apr 11, 2018 - Page 4 News List

PROFILE: Doctor finds life’s passion in helping others

By Lin Hui-chin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Physician Tai Yu-lin holds a child while doing his alternative military service in Burkina Faso in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Tai Yu-lin

Little did Tai Yu-lin (戴裕霖) expect when he started at National Cheng Kung University’s life sciences department that he would leave everything behind only to reapply for medical school four years later, when he was just about to receive his diploma and had been accepted into a master’s degree program.

“It is well worth spending four extra years to find a cause worthy of devoting your next four decades to,” said Tai, now a doctor at the Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei.

A lab he used for his life sciences studies was above a hospital, and it was common for him to hear ambulance sirens and see patients coming and going, Tai said.

The environment inspired him to volunteer at the hospital, and after interacting with patients and their families for some time, he thought that spending his life working at a hospital would not be a bad idea, he said.

“It was a crucial turning point in my life,” Tai said.

After some major consideration, Tai decided to go back to school as an undergraduate to study medicine.

Despite their shock at what seemed to be a sudden change in direction, his parents offered their full support, Tai said.

The decision, even with his parents’ support, was taxing on Tai, as he had to live with self-imposed pressure, as well as peer pressure, he said.

“My former classmates were either already employed or were starting their master’s studies,” Tai said, adding that only a few of his former classmates supported his decision to start all over again.

“I had to keep telling myself that all the world could doubt me, but I must not doubt myself,” Tai said.

He was lucky that he only spent a year studying for the university entrance exam before passing it and being accepted by Kaohsiung Medical University, he said.

Tai served his alternative military service in Burkina Faso, a diplomatic ally of Taiwan, and he said he was greatly moved by what he saw there.

Inspired by Lien Chia-en (連加恩), who served in the first alternative military service program in Burkina Faso and built an orphanage there, Tai said he applied for funding, and asked for donations of toothpaste, toothbrushes and books, and transported them to Burkina Faso.

People there have to buy their medicine and supplies if they need surgery, and if supplies run out during surgery and the patient does not have enough money to buy more, their incisions might be left open, Tai said.

“In one instance, a patient had come seeking help and there was a gaping hole in his stomach that offered an unobstructed view of his intestines,” Tai said.

In another instance, a male patient had a 20cm-long festering wound on his leg, but could not afford treatment, Tai said, adding that a Taiwanese serviceman finally paid for his treatment as he could not bear to see the man suffer.

Tai said he also spent one month in India during his medical studies working with the homeless.

“India was very crowded and I was almost constantly jostled by other people, including homeless people,” Tai said, adding that sanitary conditions were substandard, with animal feces everywhere.

“It was a very difficult time for me,” as he is something of a hygiene freak.

“One of the Dutch volunteers helped ease the experience and helped me attune myself with greater understanding,” Tai said, but added that daily exposure to festering wounds, sometimes rotted to the bone or infested with maggots, took a psychological toll on him.

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