Pingtung County’s oldest practicing ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist was recognized for his 55 years of service ahead of Doctors’ Day on Tuesday.
Born to farmers in Chiayi County, Du Ying-chi (杜英吉), 82, was the second youngest of 10 children, he said on Thursday last week.
As a child, he watched as his parents borrowed money to treat his younger brother for meningitis, which motivated him to become a doctor, Du said.
Photo: Chiu Chih-jou, Taipei Times
“Back then, being able to attend school and to study was a luxury,” he said.
His days began with farm work, he said, adding that his grandfather, who had dementia, would often hide his backpack in the field.
After finding it, Du would follow the train tracks through a cemetery to Hsin Kang Elementary School, where he went to school, Du said.
He attended Yunlin County’s Pei Kang Junior High School and National Chiayi Senior High School, and he chose the National Defense Medical Center on his college entrance exam, as it required no tuition, Du said.
After medical school, he served two years at the Chiayi Air Force Base Hospital before he was transferred to the surgical department of Kaohsiung Armed Forces General Hospital’s Pingtung branch, he said.
“In the early days, the provincial identity complex was severe,” he said, referring to the divide between the so-called waishengren (外省人) — people who fled to Taiwan with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in 1949 after its defeat in the Chinese Civil War — and benshengren (本省人) — those whose ancestors had migrated to Taiwan before the Japanese colonial era.
“It was not easy for a descendant of Taiwanese to survive at a military hospital,” he added.
He could only “practice” when the hospitals’ senior doctors were on holiday, he said.
Du applied to transfer to the ENT department, which was relatively unpopular at the time, and after retiring from the military in 1976, he opened a practice in Pingtung City, he said.
In the past, minor ENT surgery was performed in clinics, Du said.
He would often perform the procedures free for patients who could not afford them, Du said, adding that this predated the National Health Insurance system.
On weekends or holidays, he held free clinics in the mountains, taking his wife and children with him, he added.
He never found his work tiring, as this is why he had wanted to become a doctor, Du said.
He said that he has donated 110 ping (363.6m2) of land to Guang-an Elementary School in Pingtung County’s Wandan Township (萬丹).
Fourteen years ago, he moved his practice from Pingtung City to Neipu Township (內埔) and founded the Canaan Disability Home, Du said.
He continues to see patients in Neipu, he said, adding that his wife and sons have also joined the home, which is hoping to construct a new building.
“Even if I retire, a lot of old patients will still come to me,” Du said.
“As a result, I plan on continuing to serve until I am no longer able to,” he added.
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