In Remembrance of Professor Walter Patrick

By , 2015-05-15 5:51 下午

Walter Patrick 1994Until now I still cannot believe Professor Walter Patrick has left us forever.

I came to know Walter when he took his sabbatical in Taipei in 1994. Before long, with his greeting of “ALOHA,” Walter made friends with many faculty and students, including me, at the College of Public Health, National Taiwan University.

Later I heard a story about how Walter became a student of public health. When Walter was young, he practiced as a plastic surgeon in Sri Lanka. One day a small girl was burnt by a traditional oil lamp and was brought to him for treatment. Walter took care of her carefully, and the girl recovered and returned home. But, several months later, the same girl was taken to Walter again with the same injury. At once Walter realized although a plastic surgeon could make a lot of money, he would be unable to save many individual patients and bring health and happiness to all of
his country fellows. This little girl changed Walter’s journey and he decided to go boldly into the field of public health.

Being a leader in public health, Walter had great vision. In 2009, when serving as the Chair of the 41st APACPH Conference, I had the opportunity to work closely with Walter while preparing for the 25th anniversary of APACPH (see 2009 photo). I asked him to edit my welcome message. He returned a version, which I would like to call “Walter’s declaration for other 25 years missions of APACPH.” He emphasized the important role of the university in education in public health, general education and professional education, and the “mission impossible” of health, peace, and harmony in the Asia-Pacific region. This was the mission of public health in a region facing increasing social
inequalities, environmental degradation, natural and human-made disasters, including tsunamis, all with serious adverse health consequences.

Importantly, Walter was not only a talker but also a doer. We all know that Walter played an extremely important role in the establishment, growth, and transition of APACPH. In a conversation between 3 of us, Walter, Professor Ken N. Kuo, and myself in the Jakarta International Airport in 2010, Walter learnt that Ken was going to retire soon when he turned 70. He encouraged Ken and suggested that we should all work harder because retirement was not far away.  Walter worked all his life for his family, his country, and his Asia-Pacific region. Finally, Walter returned to his beloved Sri Lanka after many years of self-imposed exile and he happily saw the peace, health, and harmony of mother country.

Walter treated me as his good friend and as his “son.” He took my hand and led me forward on my
journey of public health. How could I ever forget?

 

SOURCE: Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health 2015, Vol. 27(1) 107–108.

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