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【Dine with Professions Event Recap 02/15 ✨|Chien-Jen, Chen】

“The core value of public health is to take group health as a long-term goal and act accordingly.”

As a leading scholar in the world’s public health, Dr. Chien-Jen, Chen shared his personal academic and public affairs experience in our gathering on 02/15.

Inheriting his studies in the Forestry and Animal Science studies, Dr. Chen into the field of public health during his master's degree and continued to work his in academia. Take hepatitis B and black foot disease, which were prevalent in Taiwan in the last century, as an example: After many clinical experiments, Dr. Chen has published related research in journals. With the promotion of the government together, the number of hepatitis B and C patients treated with antiviral drugs has increased year by year, and the number of new patients has dropped significantly. Now, hepatitis is almost extinct in Taiwan. As for black foot disease, Dr. Chen’s research team confirmed that it is related to the arsenic content of well water, and the World Health Organization (WHO) even takes this as the most important basis for the new standard of drinking water safety (10ppb).

Dr. Chen became the youngest professor at the National Taiwan University School of Medicine as his significant contribution in his field. At that time, he thought he would take his academic research as a tenure. However, the SARS epidemic in 2003 became a turning point.

- Servant-Leadership and reformation of the epidemic prevention system

Dr. Chen pointed out that, unlike his father's high hopes of running for the legislator, he regarded his political career as an opportunity to deepen public service. During his tenure as the Director of the Department of Health, he changed the decision-making style of the bureaucratic system in the past and adopted "servant-leadership", emphasizing that in addition to adequate communication at all levels and resolving information asymmetry, he also gave every employee due respect. After the SARS epidemic came to an end, Dr. Chen also took advantage of his professional ability to devote himself to the reform of the post-SARS epidemic prevention system. Dr. Chen also cooperated with the ministers of various ministries and councils to thoroughly reform existing laws and regulations, strengthen epidemic prevention, screening and monitoring. Successfully resolved multiple crises.

- Equal emphasis on natural science and humanistic quality

The above two seem to be at two extremes, but when discussing personal academic and political careers, Dr. Chen emphasized that the two complement each other, especially the importance of humanistic quality. For example, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020, Taiwan has been regarded by other countries as a model student of epidemic prevention many times; in addition to the reform of the epidemic prevention system, Taiwan's independent national epidemic prevention awareness is also the reason for the stable control of the epidemic. During the SARS epidemic, Dr. Chen emphasized the leadership style of full communication and personally defended the rights and interests of health officials who were irrationally impeached. In addition, when faced with the dilemma between religious belief and same-sex marriage rights, Dr. Chen, who was then the vice president, chose to respect the latter after many compromises, which not only contributed to the substantial improvement of the rights and interests of the gay community, but also represented the spirit of humanism that keeps pace with the times.

Today, Dr. Chen has returned to academia. However, just like a haiku gifted by his father when he was young, his life philosophy of keeping a low profile and loaded with rules of thumb have enabled him to continue to have a positive influence on the world even when he retires behind the scenes.

*Dr. Chien-Jen, Chen is the 14th Vice President of the Republic of China, 9th Director of the Department of Health (now the Ministry of Health and Welfare), Academician of the World Academy of Sciences, Foreign Academician of the National Academy of Sciences, Academician of the Academia Sinica, and Academician of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Besides public service and research, Dr. Chen has also been invested as a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (2010) and a Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great (2013).

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