Zhu Chen

Your special talent for curing disease, alleviating suffering, and transforming lives should not be allowed to obscure a different and essential feature of your remarkable life: an unusual ability to defy the odds in service of humanitarian goals. When the dictates of the Cultural Revolution prevented the completion of your medical studies, you embraced the work of a barefoot doctor, spending five years in the countryside caring for farmers and gaining new inspiration in the process. Given the opportunity to train at Shanghai Second Medical University, you demonstrated exceptional talent as a young hematologist and then found your way to Paris and the pursuit of a doctorate at Hôpital Saint-Louis at Université Paris Diderot. The barefoot doctor was on a path that would lead him to become China's Minister of Health from 2007 to 2013, overseeing the largest health system in the world, which since 1949 has witnessed the average life expectancy of the Chinese people rise from 35 to 75 years, an astonishing advance due in large part to the tireless work of women and men like you. During your time in France, you immersed yourself in a new field, molecular biology, and then carried that learning home with you where you focused your attention on the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia, a particularly lethal cancer without a known cure. Through an imaginative blending of Chinese and Western medical traditions, you were able to pioneer a new combination therapy that would save countless lives. Indeed, a cancer that once often resulted in death within a month of diagnosis now has remission rates of 90 percent, an outcome made possible by your creativity and determination. Your contributions have been widely recognized, including by La Ligue Nationale Contre le Cancer, which for the first time bestowed its highest award, the Prix de I'Oise, upon a non-French recipient. It gives us great pleasure, in adding to your honors with this degree, to be reminded of beloved Columbia alumnus and cardiologist, the late Clyde Wu, whose dedication to furthering innovative clinical research knew no bounds and whose fellowship you once held here. According to Hippocrates, "Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity." You have embodied this precept through a combination of brilliant scholarship, groundbreaking research, public leadership, and, most of all, an unwavering personal dedication to serving humanity. Columbia is therefore proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.