U Of U researcher remembered for public health heroics in China

U Of U researcher remembered for public health heroics in China

SALT LAKE CITY — Shuping Wang died Sunday but family members said she is being remembered around the world today for her efforts as a whistleblower in China, which some say saved the lives of more than 10,000 people.

“Her public health career in China is going to live on for a long time,” said Wang’s husband, Gary Christensen. “That’s a big part of her legacy.”

The part of Wang’s life that she was best known for happened years before she and Christensen even met.

During the early 90s, Shuping Wang worked in a medical clinic, in the Henan province of China. Using her own money, she tested the blood samples of more than a hundred patients for HIV, finding that 13% had become infected.

She also reported to the government that the money-saving measures they were taking were putting thousands of others at risk for cross-contamination. The government initially told her to keep it quiet but later relented after she persisted.

Some people credited her for saving the lives of more than 10,000 people.

“She didn’t really flaunt that among people that she knew closely,” Christensen said. “She wouldn’t share that with day to day people that we’d meet. She was just a very down to earth person.”

For her trouble, Christensen said Wang’s clinic was vandalized and destroyed. She was beaten and told she had marred the reputation of the Henan province by revealing their unsafe practices. She eventually fled to the U.S. from China.

Wang died from a heart attack Saturday while hiking with her husband and some friends. She most recently worked as a researcher in the neurobiology and imaging department at the University of Utah.

Wang’s life in China was recently turned into a play, which is still running in London’s Hampstead Theatre. Wang and her husband got to see the premiere on Sept. 12.

“After the actors took their bow, they invited Shuping on stage, to take a bow with them,” Christensen said. “Immediately upon walking on stage, she received a thunderous standing ovation. I think that really was a nice moment for her.”

Wang is survived by her husband and three children. She and her husband also had two cats and a dog.

“She leaves a big hole in my heart,” Christensen said. “We lost a giant.”

Mike Anderson

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