Academia Sinica’s Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信), the nation’s leading authority on hepatitis, died from pancreatic cancer at National Taiwan University Hospital on Wednesday. He was 76.
Born on July 6, 1943, in then-Taipei County’s Yingge Township (鶯歌), Chen was a student of National Taiwan University College of Medicine professor Sung Juei-low (宋瑞樓), dubbed the Taiwanese father of liver disease research.
Chen attributed his dedication to the study of liver diseases to his father dying of liver cancer when he was in his senior year in college and to his contracting hepatitis A when he was in elementary school.
Photo: Yang Yuan-ting, Taipei Times
He was in the original group that persuaded the government to introduce hepatitis B preventive measures, leading to the government’s introduction of a mass vaccination program in 1984, the first nation in the world to do so.
To overcome public resistance to the program, Chen and Sung appeared on TV and radio to promote it.
To date, the program has benefitted 8 million Taiwanese.
Chen and his team finalized the genetic sequencing of the Taiwan strain of the hepatitis C virus, paving the way for the development of a treatment using short-term interferon alongside Ribavirin.
That became the foundation for the development of a treatment using long-term interferon with Ribavirin.
Although Chen retired in 2013, he continued to go to his office daily to conduct research and teach students during clinical treatment sessions, National Taiwan University Hospital vice superintendent Wu Ming-shiang (吳明賢) said.
A doctor can only save one life through treatment, but through top-notch research, they can help many, Wu quoted Chen as saying, adding that Chen was a role model for Taiwanese physicians.
Chen’s decision to remain in Taiwan was a boon for the nation’s medical sector, Wu said, citing how Chen had saved the Gastroenterological Society of Taiwan by virtue of his reputation alone when the society was at risk of being removed from the World Gastroenterological Organization due to Chinese interference.
Academia Sinica on Wednesday night also issued a statement in remembrance of Chen.
Chen’s research on hepatitis B and C, and his influence on related policymaking, made Taiwan a world leader in liver disease research, Academia Sinica President James Liao (廖俊智) said.
Over the past few months, Chen also served as a consultant for the institution’s team researching COVID-19, even though he was unwell, Liao said, expressing deep regret over losing such a valuable mentor.
Additional reporting by Yang Yuan-ting and Lin Chia-nan
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