Distinguished doctor finds joy in the diversity of life

By Rachel Lin and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Jun 08, 2013 - Page 5

Although his prestigious family background pressed him to follow a predetermined career path, gynecologist Hsieh Fon-jou (謝豐舟), an honorary professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine, has never stopped believing that life is full of possibilities.

Given that his grandfather was the nation’s first surgeon and his father was an esteemed gynecologist, Hsieh felt obligated to live up to his family’s expectations and become a physician and college professor.

“My family also arranged that I should marry a pediatrician,” he said, adding: “Luckily, I was allowed to choose which pediatrician I wanted to marry.”

Despite enjoying an unrivaled reputation in the industry, Hsieh said that being a doctor did not bring him any joy and he was depressed throughout his entire seven-year medical education at National Taiwan University.

Once he had satisfied his family’s expectations, Hsieh decided to explore other possibilities in life.

Hsieh extended his expertise to other areas and took up several teaching positions at the university’s College of Engineering, College of Life Science and College of Social Sciences.

He also helped to host a well-received exhibition in 2007, titled Close Encounter: Illusion Where Science Meets Art, which sought to combine science, art and education by displaying various interactive installations based on scientific principles.

Hsieh’s broad interests also benefited a research team led by Lin Sung-jan (林頌然), an associate professor at the university’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering, which made it into the internationally renowned Science magazine in April for discovering the precise location of melanocyte stem cells, which control the pigmentation of bird feathers.

Although he only holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine, Hsieh has helped nurture scores of medical doctoral candidates — many of whom went on to become celebrated surgeons — during his 45 years of teaching at his alma mater.

Unlike most professors, Hsieh said he preferred to communicate with his students via e-mail and the variety of topics discussed range from neuro-economics and taxi etiquette to how to undergo a personal renaissance.

He also endeavored to provide “last-minute remedies” for students who were on the brink of expulsion, because “medical doctoral candidates who fail to graduate will also lose their place in the industry.”

“He [Hsieh] is the most visionary professor at National Taiwan University,” said Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), director of the Department of Traumatology at the university hospital.

Before his retirement in February last year, Hsieh held a retrospective exhibition on himself that featured his family background, achievements in disease prevention and clinical medicine research, interdisciplinary accomplishments, as well as his artworks and paintings.

Commenting on his reasons for launching the exhibition, Hsieh said: “I want to show those dispirited medical students and doctors that there is always more than one possibility in life.”