Building a Bridge of Medical Knowledge, the Wu Family Way


Peter Wortsman

Clyde Wu’56

Fulfilling a cherished dream of the late Clyde Wu’56, distinguished academic cardiologist, philanthropist extraordinaire, and the longest-serving trustee of Columbia University, VP&S faculty members engaged with their counterparts at Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, at the two-day “Frontiers in Biomedicine: 2017 Joint Forum of ZJU School of Medicine and Columbia P&S” in October 2017. It was the first collaborative educational initiative sponsored by the Wu Family China Center for Health Initiatives. 

The event was hosted by Yi Sun, MD, PhD, dean of the ZJU School of Transitional Medicine, and co-organized by Anke Nolting, PhD, inaugural administrative director of the Wu Family China Center, and Stanley Chang’74, co-chair of the center’s faculty committee. The event was held on the main ZJU campus in Hangzhou. 

The Wu Family China Center for Health Initiatives is the culmination of the philanthropic largesse of Dr. Wu and his wife, Helen, whose commitment to Columbia included six named professorships, a named auditorium in the new Vagelos Education Center, and the Wu Fellows Program that supports Chinese physician-scientists to pursue advanced training at VP&S. The center, generously supported by Wu family and friends, has a mission “to permit faculty from outstanding institutions to put their minds together to pursue collaborative research, clinical care, and teaching in the medical sciences of potential benefit to all.” 

Distinguished faculty members from the two institutions presented their cutting-edge research in a variety of fields, including oncology, cardiology, translational medicine, osteoporosis, ophthalmology, infectious diseases, HIV, and venereal diseases, and visited labs and teaching facilities at ZJU and its affiliated hospitals. Presenters included Michael Yin’96, associate professor of medicine at VP&S, the first VP&S faculty member to work on collaborative research with colleagues at ZJU. His Columbia lab, in turn, welcomed Dr. Junwei Su, the first visiting fellow from ZJU hosted by the Wu Center. 

Chen Zhu, center, who received the 2017 Dr. Clyde and Mrs. Helen Wu Award in International Understanding, is shown with Roger Wu and Lady Ivy Wu.

The high point of the symposium was an award ceremony at which Lady Ivy Wu, sister-in-law to Clyde and Helen Wu, and Dr. Roger Wu, Clyde and Helen Wu’s oldest son, represented the Wu family. They bestowed the 2017 Dr. Clyde and Mrs. Helen Wu Award in International Understanding on Chen Zhu, MD, PhD, who received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Columbia in 2016. Dr. Chen, president of the Red Cross of China and China’s former Minister of Health, is a former Wu Fellow who pursued research in the United States. 

Dr. Chen delivered an account of his career as a research hematologist whose approach—integrating traditional Chinese medicine and Western molecular immunology—led to the development of the first effective treatment for a form of leukemia. As Minister of Health from 2007 to 2013 and then as president of the Red Cross Society of China, Dr. Chen has been devoted to improving China’s health care system. “A decent standard of living, adequate nutrition, health care, education, decent work, and the protection against calamities are not just development goals,” he said. “They are also human rights. To uphold the right to health is an integral and essential part of policymaking in China.” In March 2018, Dr. Chen was elected to a second term as vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, among the few biomedical scientists to hold high political office.