An eulogy on Dr. Wen Jer Chen by his mentor, Prof. Claude Sansaricq
by Claude Sansaricq
SPEECH FOR WEN JER CHEN MEMORIAL
Today, we are gathering here as friends, family members and fellow companions to share our memories about our beloved friend Wen Jer Chen. I first met him when he applied for a fellowship position at the NYU/Bellevue Hospital in 1971. At that time he gave the impression of a polite, humble and serious young physician truly interested to acquire knowledge in our restricted field of Inborn Errors of the Metabolism. He came on board with us and ever since remained with us. This brings up his true character that we describe as follows. Aside from what we have already mentioned above we can say that he was respectful, competent, skillful, reliable, faithful, appreciative and above all very generous. This is the man I know.
To place him in context I have to brief you up about our activities at the Metabolic Disease Center. In 1965 The Newborn Screening Program (NSP) was created in New York State and the complex NYU/Bellevue was designated to be the referral Center for diagnosis and treatment of the conditions screened for. Originally our Center was called the PKU Clinic because the only disease screened was PKU . Subsequently it became known as The Metabolic Diseases Referral Center when the program was extended to include in addition to PKU a number of genetic conditions such as MSUD, Homocystinemia, Fatty Acid Oxidation Defects, Galactosemia, Carnitine Deficiency etc The list is long and I will dispense you of that. In fact the center was also involve in conditions where the diagnosis was unknown. The work involved also laboratory skills such as amino acids measurements , enzymes analyses and various patients loading including handling of radioactive materials and now even molecular studies. The handling of these cases required knowledge in nutrition as treatment of these conditions was frequently based on dietary manipulations. Wen Jer was involved in all aspects of these different activities
To give you an idea of the kind of work he performed I will; as an example succinctly report the case of a baby referred to us in order to rule out a metabolic condition. The baby was food intolerant (Vomiting .diarrhea, abdominal distension etc). An older brother had died with the same clinical picture in early infancy without a definite diagnosis. At that time we had no gastroenterology. After a full appropriate work-up we established and described the case as a familial short bowel syndrome with total hypoganglionosis and persistent ductus arteriosus (PDA). This required small bowel biopsy, surgery for gastro-duodenal anastomosis and constant Total Parenteral Alimentation (TPN) something that had barely started as a medical intervention. Wen Jer was associated in all the phases of this case.. For two years we had to frequently change IV lines that in small babies this is not an easy task. This required skill that often was beyond that of the Intern or the Resident: You guess who had the necessary skill to help out. Twenty-five years later this child had become an adult and was still alive at the time of this writing.
We had developed a good friendship and often we exchanged ideas while discussing about philosophical or religious subjects. One day he told me that his mother said to him that she was very happy to cut a chicken throat because she was liberating a soul that would have a chance to evolve into a superior echelon of life. This was in keeping with Buddhism teaching. Another time I was telling him that human being was the cream, the pearl of creation and all on earth was made for his development and evolution So said he: If man eats chicken do you want to say that the chicken was made to be eaten by man? I said yes! He then continued and said When a tiger eats a man could you say that man was made to be eaten by tigers. Obviously, he was joking. We have to say he also had a sense of humor.
When he was savagely attacked in his office he quickly and courageously made the decision to call for an ambulance. He fortunately and vigorously responded to treatment and that saved him, but he carried a bullet imbedded in one of his vertebral bodies that could not immediately be removed surgically and the surgeon did not want to prolong the operation. After this experience he was not bitter and never showed anger nor did he disclosed any sense of retaliation. He was really courageous.
In short, all the character traits reported above of him can definitely be recognized as true. He was also very generous of his time and definitely in his social interactions.
My wife and I would like to take this occasion to present our profound condolences to the family and in particular to Patsy his beloved wife, her two extraordinary and especially gifted daughters Wendy and Justine as well. In our Christian faith we believe that after death the soul rests in peace in the Lord. That is what we sincerely wish him. He will deeply be missed for a long time. Courage to all that have been touched by his life and early departure
Claude Sansaricq 11/12/2016
Source from Patsy Chen
Posted in 2/2019