Pandemic offers challenges and opportunities: New NTUH head

Dr. Wu Ming-shiang is the new superintendent of the National Taiwan University Hospital (left). (The China Post/Shutterstock)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — As the leading hospital in Taiwan, the nomination of the new superintendent of the National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH, 台大醫院) is always at the center of attention.

Amid the ongoing outbreak, the nomination of Dr. Wu Ming-shiang (吳明賢) to lead the NTUH on Aug. 1 has again attracted global media coverage.

Speaking to The China Post, Taiwan in an exclusive interview, Dr. Wu praised the way Taiwan authorities have handled the pandemic so far.

At the same time, he thanked Taiwan public for cooperating with health authorities while wearing face masks, washing their hands and keeping proper social distances.

Dr. Wu remarked that many have come to realize that “prevention is better than the cure” while facing this unprecedented pandemic.

Developing Smart Healthcare 

Against this backdrop, Dr. Wu noted that “the pandemic is a crisis, but it is also an opportunity.” To this end, he aims to further assist the NTUH in putting greater efforts in developing “smart healthcare,” “precision health” and “advanced medicine” for the years to come.

Thanks to Taiwan’s strong IT industry, he expressed hopes to further incorporate technology and medical care; thus, creating a “smart healthcare” that will benefit the people of Taiwan.

“Prevention is the key to precision health,” said Dr. Wu who noted that Taiwan is doing so well on tertiary prevention (trying to improve your quality of life and reduce the symptoms of a disease you already have).

Vast sums of medical expenses could also be saved if the primary (trying to prevent yourself from getting a disease) and secondary preventions (trying to detect a disease early and prevent it from getting worse) were reinforced too, he pointed out.

A collage shows National Taiwan University Hospital (left), and Dr. Wu Ming-shiang who is the new superintendent of the National Taiwan University Hospital. (The China Post/Shutterstock)
Boosting Disease Prevention 

In this regard, Dr. Wu noted that the COVID-19 pandemic could be viewed as an opportunity for the development of future medical care in Taiwan. Prior to the pandemic, people neglected the concept of disease prevention, he went on, assuming that hospitals are a panacea for their health.

Yet, hospitals have their limits, he pointed out. Under the threat of the coronavirus, people put more emphasis on health and better understand the significance of disease prevention, he continued.

Countries have also been pouring more effort into vaccine development, elevating vaccine research to a national-security level issue, which he called “positive developments.”

Given that the NTUH is the leading medical institution in Taiwan and the fourth medical center in the world that managed to isolate the coronavirus virus strain earlier this year, Dr. Wu said he is confident in the NTUH’s contribution to solving this global health crisis.

Manufacturing a Taiwan Vaccine

Dr. Wu, however, lamented that the limited scale of the pharmaceutical industry and the size of Taiwan’s population are placing the eventual development of a local vaccine in a predicament.

The Taiwanese research teams are likely to sell their research results to big international pharmaceutical companies even if the first and second vaccine trials go well, he explained.

The difficulty of vaccine development also arose due to the low number of confirmed cases in Taiwan, he added.

So, why not wait for the U.S. to develop the vaccines? The problem is that the U.S wouldn’t export any vaccines until after its domestic needs are satisfied, Dr. Wu said.

Upholding Taiwan’s National Security

More importantly, vaccine research is more than a competition; it is also a matter of “national security,” he continued. If a country fails to flatten the curve, it could ultimately cause crippling effects on the medical system, the economy, and our day-to-day lives, he warned.

Against such backdrop, Dr. Wu stressed the importance of the ADIMMUNE Corporation (國光生技), NTUH, which is involved in several clinical trials, including the Remdesivir trial led by Gilead Sciences (吉利德公司) in Taiwan.

In facing the pandemic, the NTUH adheres to the core value “all lives are invaluable” and “treat patients like family,” he explained. The NTUH will continue to do research and cultivate talents, aiming to become a prestigious international university hospital, he stressed.

A collage shows President Tsai Ing-wen (right), and Dr. Wu Ming-shiang who is the new superintendent of the National Taiwan University Hospital. (The China Post)
Actions Speak Louder than Words

Political leaders in Taiwan have done an amazing job in keeping Taiwan safe during this dire situation, and thus people have expressed concerns regarding their health.

When asked about President Tsai’s health amid the global health crisis, Dr. Wu emphasized that the president is always “conscious of her virus-prevention actions” whenever she steps outside the office even though she has the best healthcare personnel to attend to her.

These are pivotal to combat the outbreak, he explained.

“Action usually speaks louder than words,” Dr. Wu said, adding that “most people are aware of how to maintain good health, but the tricky part is whether they can actually implement it.”

“The president’s health exceeds the level of personal issues; it is, in effect, a national issue.”

After all, Dr. Wu stressed that when it comes to fighting the pandemic, everything is simple. You need to stay away from the virus, act for the greater good and actively protect yourself by wearing face masks, washing your hands, and keeping a safe social distance with others.