Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Searching for Roots: Soochow Hospital in China

by Christie R. House

Pictured above is the delegation with New York Methodist Hospital personnel: (Left to right), Chinese delegation: Xiong Wei, secretary of the Soochow hospital office, Zhou Qun, deputy director of the hospital office, and Dr. Jianyi Ge, president of the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University. Seated is Mark Mundy, CEO and president of New York Methodist Hospital; standing is Stanley Sherbell, M.D., executive vice president for medical affairs, Dr. Charlene Chao of New York Methodist Hospital, who served as translator, and Becky Asedillo, executive staff of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Pictured above is the delegation with New York Methodist Hospital personnel: (Left to right), Chinese delegation: Xiong Wei, secretary of the Soochow hospital office, Zhou Qun, deputy director of the hospital office, and Dr. Jianyi Ge, president of the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University. Seated is Mark Mundy, CEO and president of New York Methodist Hospital; standing is Stanley Sherbell, M.D., executive vice president for medical affairs, Dr. Charlene Chao of New York Methodist Hospital, who served as translator, and Becky Asedillo, executive staff of the General Board of Global Ministries. Photo courtesy of New York Methodist Hospital

A small delegation from the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, in Suzhou, China, arrived in New York City, November 1, 2013, to meet with staff of the United Methodist mission agency, the General Board of Global Ministries. Seeking out the current embodiment of the predecessor mission agency that founded their institution in 1883, the representatives came first and foremost to say "thank you."

Dr. Jianyi Ge, President of the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, Zhou Qun, Deputy Director of the hospital office, and Xiong Wei, Secretary of the hospital office, formed the Chinese delegation that came to express gratitude and deliver personally an invitation for appropriate mission agency staff to attend the celebration of Soochow Hospital's 130th anniversary, taking place December 28, 2013, in Suzhou, China. Soochow Hospital was founded in 1883 by Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), missionary doctors, Walter R. Lambuth and William Hector Park. Lambuth returned to the United States in 1885 because of ill health. He later assumed leadership as General Secretary of the Board of Missions and in 1910 was elected bishop. Park, however, served 41 years in Soochow as the first president and supervising doctor of Soochow Hospital.

In 1885, the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the MECS recognized the need for a female doctor in Soochow and sent Dr. Mildred Philips, who opened a women's hospital as part of the mission, known as Mary Black Hospital. Under Dr. Philips and her successors, Drs. Anne Walter and Margaret Polk, the dire medical needs of Chinese women, who could not see a male physician because of the social mores of their time and culture, were also met.

Offering Service and Collaboration

Looking forward as well as back, the delegation traveled to Brooklyn to meet with staff of the New York Methodist Hospital (NYMH), where they were given a tour of the sleep disorder, robotics surgery, and cardiology departments. President and CEO of NYMH, Mark J. Mundy, welcomed them. New York Methodist Hospital is the oldest Methodist hospital in the United States and was founded in 1881, just a few years before Soochow Hospital, halfway across the world. While NYMH is a 600-bed facility and Soochow Hospital a 1732-bed facility, the two hospitals have earned about equal ranking in their respective nations, as both rank in the top 50 hospitals in each country.

The visit to NYMH and to Global Ministries' headquarters in New York served to open channels of communication between Soochow Hospital and potential partners in the United States. First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University seeks to explore future collaborations that would benefit all concerned.

The hospital's current mission statement says it aspires to lay a solid basis for healthcare in Suzhou, safeguard the well-being of its citizens, lead medical science and technology in Suzhou, and foster state-of-the-art medical talents. Its present-day motto echoes closely its Methodist legacy: "Innovation from Extensive Learning, Serving with Compassion."

Christie R. House is the editor of New World Outlook magazine.

Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Doctor, Walter R. Lambuth, co-founder of Soochow Hospital in 1883.
Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Doctor, Walter R. Lambuth, co-founder of Soochow Hospital in 1883.
Photo courtesy of the 30th anniversary program, Board of Missions.

Dr. William Hector Park, co-founder of Soochow Hospital, with his aged father.
Dr. William Hector Park, co-founder of Soochow Hospital, with his aged father.
Photo courtesy of the 30th anniversary program, Board of Missions.

An original drawing of Soochow Hospital as built in 1883.
An original drawing of Soochow Hospital as built in 1883.
Photo courtesy of the 30th anniversary program, Board of Missions.

The current hospital, First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University.
The current hospital, First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University.
Photo courtesy of First Affiliated Hospital, Soochow