An Important Chunk of Medical History

‘A Dragon in Dodoland’

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

On Sunday last, there was a celebration of the 42nd anniversary of the City Clinic of Port Louis, and the second launch of a biography of its founder, Dr Patrick Chui Wan Cheong, entitled ‘A Dragon in Dodoland’ – a lavishly produced volume of nearly 460 pages, with the front cover bearing a photograph of the smiling elderly doctor. I was present at the function in both an official capacity (representing the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life) and on personal invitation as well.

Last year I had also attended the first launch of the book, written by journalist/editor Sydney Selvon, in the presence of the Prime Minister at the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre. It was a solemn as well as an entertaining evening, since we had the opportunity to see Patrick and his wife Jacqueline display their other talents – singing, dancing, and acting. Not to speak of the food that we enjoyed too, and as usual on such occasions one meets friends and colleagues who don’t cross one’s path as often as used to be. Nostalgic recollections are shared, as well as of updating done on happenings since when last one met, mainly about children and present occupation and leisure. I was at the table with Patrick jr. and Roy Chavrimootoo, and I could not but be all ears to the latter’s passionate discourse on his recently found love: golf!

Many a time Patrick had requested me to join his team at the clinic – I appreciated his gesture, but for a couple of that I saw patients there, I could not really commit myself. Not only was the distance a problem (especially as one ages – unless one doesn’t, like Patrick!), since I live in Curepipe, but my own private practice was already well established there, and I have never practiced elsewhere. Fate, though, would have it otherwise, and now I meet him more often in the Traditional Medicine Board, of which we are both members.

I am given to understand that Patrick has always been interested in and actively promoted Traditional Chinese medicine. Certainly he is a fervent protagonist of TM, as his presence on the TMB shows. In fact, the WHO has passed a resolution encouraging countries to integrate TM practices into mainstream allopathic medicine, which most countries have adopted as their preferred medical system in modern times. His biography contains a chapter on TM covering Chinese TM and Ayurveda, the Indian TM. In line with the WHO resolution, the latter has been incorporated into our health services, and there is certainly a case, given the known benefits of acupuncture, Tai Chi and Feng Shui, for Chinese traditional therapies to be similarly mainstreamed locally. Patrick can no doubt be of significant assistance in this regard, what with his connections in China.

As a matter of fact, these stretch back to his roots there, in the province of Muiyen where he was born, and which he left on board the Surat at the age of eighteen to try his luck in Mauritius. In the book, there is a picture of him and his wife with his cousin and the latter’s wife taken in the room where he was born in the house in Muiyen, and it must have been a very highly emotionally charged moment for the lot of them, but especially for Patrick to find himself there. I have heard accounts of such family reunions and ‘reconnections’ with their ancestral land from some Chinese friends who have made the trip, and one can gauge the intensity of the feeling that marked these meetings. Although I have not had the chance to visit the place where my ancestors came from, yet I have had similar intense moments elsewhere in India, my spiritual motherland, and I can quite understand what that means to those who find themselves reconnecting with their roots.

For the same reason, I find much resonance with what Patrick describes and refers to in his biography, because they relate to values that are common to the two great civilizations that India and China represent. Here I may quote from the prologue written by Patrick himself: ‘I was blessed with exemplary parents. As I was brought up in a conservative family, I was taught many virtues and forms of wisdom during my childhood by my parents… Although our parents are no longer with us, we must forever remain grateful for their ethical teachings. Our mission is to pass these teachings on to our children and grandchildren and to posterity. Arming new generations with such teachings cannot guarantee a perfect success rate, of course, in today’s material world… but there is always hope! What matters in life is to strive hard and make efforts in pursuance of a good cause.’ (italics added)

This concern with respect for elders, the transmission of values to children, the virtue of hard work and perseverance, and feeling of responsibility towards coming generations finds an echo in what I was also exposed to, and that like Patrick I and many others carry as a legacy. No wonder, therefore, his continuing, active involvement in professional, family and related activities at such a ripe old age, ever fresh and ever wanting to do things. Not forgetting the old at the same time as pioneering the new in his chosen field of medicine, taking the risk to introduce what has come to be known as ‘high-tech’ medicine which is very costly indeed, and always ready to adopt and adapt from lessons learned during travels in many parts of the world, and continually ‘analysing my mistakes in order to enable me to move on with a deeper understanding of things’: ‘taking the best and leaving the rest.’

All this put together and underpinned by the ‘golden rules’ which he sets out are at the basis of the success of the City Clinic, as he avers. It was a bold move, no doubt, to open a clinic in a previously riot-torn area, at a time (1969) when the only private clinics were situated in the district of Plaines Wilhems and catered essentially to the affluent. It is a fact that we doctors know very little of our local medical history, and the trajectory of Dr Patrick Chui Wan Cheong and that of his children who joined him in the medical profession and other business concerns must represent an important chunk of that history, in particular as it pertains to the private sector in which Patrick with the able support of his family has blazed many a trail. All doctors, especially the younger ones, would find much to learn about medicine in Mauritius over the past 40 years in reading this book, and also be inspired by the nuggets of wisdom that are interspersed throughout.

But Patrick’s history, and contribution, is not yet over…

* Published in print edition on 13 May 2011

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