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【Glory】Professor Yizhi Liu of Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center Wins the Chinese Medical Doctor Award

Source: Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center of Sun Yat-sen University

Edited by: Liu Nian


On June 26, the remarkable ceremony of the 10th Chinese Medical Doctor Award was held in Beijing. As the top award for medical doctors in China, the Award this year was bestowed to Professor Yizhi Liu, Director of Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center (ZOC) and Dean of Ophthalmic Hospital Affiliated to Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU).

The Chinese Medical Doctor Award was set up by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association (CMDA) in 2003 at the approval of the Ministry of Health. In 2010, its retention was officially approved by CPC Central Committee and the State Council for the purpose of recognizing outstanding role models of medical doctors. Since its establishment, the Award has been presented every two years, ten times so far, to 785 outstanding representative physicians. It is known that the theme of the Award this year was “Great Doctors in People’s Hearts”. Therefore, it was targeted at doctors who stood out in medical ethics and professional ethics, and the award-winning candidates are all from the clinical front-line. The selection was officially initiated early this year. Through a stringent process of selection, including initial evaluation, final evaluation and publicity, 80 outstanding medical doctors finally won the Award. They come from 31 provinces, some of whom are from the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police Force, and their specialties cover 11 disciplines including internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, pediatrics, etc.


Professor Yizhi Liu: Full Professor, doctoral supervisor, State Council Expert for Special Allowance, Central Health Experts, Chief of National Basic Research Program (973 Program). Currently he is the Director of ZOC, Dean of Ophthalmic Hospital Affiliated to SYSU, Director of State Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology (SKLO), standing committee member of Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO), Vice-President of the Chinese Ophthalmological Society (COS), Deputy Director of the Cataract and Intraocular Lenses Division of COS, Vice-President of the Guangdong Medical Association, and committee member of the Guangdong Ophthalmological Society. He also serves as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Vision, and Associate Co-Editor-in-Chief of Current Molecular Medicine.


——More about Prof. Yizhi Liu——


An Ophthalmologist with Professional Excellence, Medical Ethics and Innovative Spirit

More about Professor Yizhi Liu, ZOC

As one of the pioneers in minimally invasive cataract surgery in China, Professor Yizhi Liu from ZOC has engaged in the prevention and treatment of ocular diseases for 32 years and cured more than 200,000 cataract patients. He serves as the Chief of the National Basic Research Program (973 Program) and takes charge of other national key programs, including the Major Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), Funds for International Cooperation and Exchange of the NSFC and Key Projects of Clinical Specialty of the Ministry of Health. In addition, he also cultivates over 40 doctoral and graduate students including some, some of whom are winners of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars. As an outstanding ophthalmologist and medical scientist, he regards his career as his life, dares to take responsibility, and always pursues innovation. With firm ideal and belief, virtuous medical ethics, sophisticated medical expertise and remarkable academic achievement, he is well-received by patients and highly reputed in the academic circle of ophthalmology both home and abroad.

A Man with Firm Conviction

Influenced by his father, Yizhi Liu has determined to be a good doctor who possesses medical ethics and frees patients from their sufferings since his early years. After graduating from the Department of Clinical Medicine, Sun Yat-sen University of Medical Sciences (SUMS) in 1984, he started to engage in the prevention and treatment of cataract under the guidance of Professor Shaozhen Li, the first member of Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) in the field of ophthalmology in China. In 1985, Zhongxun Xi, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee, inscribed the following words during his visit to ZOC: “Carry forward the lofty spirit of loving China and its people, keep improving the level of ophthalmological health care and make greater contributions to the development of health care.” The inscription standing at the height of the country and people has influenced and inspired generations of staff at ZOC. It also prompts Yizhi Liu to keep his pace in innovating and enhancing the prevention and treatment of cataract, to solve clinical problems and to improve efficiency so as to benefit the cataract patients.

As an ophthalmic doctor, “ending the blindness of cataract patients” is Yizhi Liu’s lifelong dream, for which he works relentlessly and never stops his exploration and innovation.

A Problem Solver and a Leader of Innovation

As a medical practitioner, Yizhi Liu profoundly realizes that he must forge ahead and play a vanguard role in the innovation-driven development. The ZOC of SYSU where he works is the only institute which SKLO is based on, and it represents the highest level of clinical ophthalmology in China. Instead of stopping at providing basic medical services, it must focus on national strategic needs, participate in international competition on behalf of the country and solve the world’s medical problems.

Congenital cataract treatment is regarded as a worldwide problem due to its complex diagnosis and treatment and poor treatment effects. Many hospitals are unable to provide treatment. Consequently, the afflicted children and their families have to suffer lifelong pain caused by the disease. As is reported by Science, Yizhi Liu led his team to overcome the unimaginable difficulties and establish a platform where the information about diagnosis and treatment of congenital cataract as well as its research data can be shared globally. Through 18-year painstaking research, Liu and his team created the phacoemulsification surgery for infantile congenital cataract, which realizes human lens in situ regeneration for the first time and has been successfully applied to the clinical treatment for congenital cataract. This creation proposed new treatment concepts for regenerative medicine and was seen as a miracle by the international experts. This prominent research progress was published in Nature, a top academic journal in the world.


It is said that “the best doctors prevent disease before it starts.” However, there are no effective measures for cataract prevention. According to Yizhi Liu, delaying the occurrence of cataracts can help save a lot of medical resources and benefit mankind. The team he led found the gene mutation related to congenital cataract and invented lanosterol eye drops to reverse the cataracts, which has an epoch-making significance to the research on cataract prevention.

As the Director of SKLO, in recent years Yizhi Liu has set up a high-level talent team and introduced many talents to the team, including four talents from the Innovative Talents Recruitment Program of “the Thousand Talents Plan” organized by Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee, five from the Recruitment Program for Young Professionals of the Plan, one winner of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars and a number of SYSU talents from “the Hundred Talents Program”. Each year, the SCI papers published by ZOC account for almost half of the total number in the whole ophthalmic field in China. ZOC is having a greater influence in the whole world, for it has ranked the first in the Chinese Reputation Rankings in Medical Specialties (Ophthalmology) for six consecutive years and occupied the first place in ophthalmology in Chinese Hospital Science and Technology Power Lists for two consecutive years. In April 2015, APAO permanently located its headquarter in ZOC.

A Wholehearted Practitioner of Revolutionary Technology

Yizhi Liu is persistent in his pursuit of medical technology innovation and applies the most advanced technology to clinical treatment. “As a doctor, it’s not enough to just smile at patients. What matters more is having the technology to enable the patients to smile,” he often says.

In the early 1990s, the domestic technology for cataract treatment was still a laggard. Yizhi Liu first introduced the minimally invasive phacoemulsification to China and created the phacoemulsification system which fitted in with Chinese patients. Nowadays, this creation has become the core technology for minimally invasive phacoemulsification in China. He also pioneered the world’s new phacoemulsification mode and the first spinning absorption technology, and published the world’s first representative paper on the mode. This technology is universally recognized as “the milestone for cataract surgery development” and has been applied in 180 countries. In China, it has increased the Cataract Surgery Rate (CSR) by 10 times, enhanced the rate of vision rehabilitation from 42% to 95.7%, and shortened the operation length to a few minutes. YiZhi Liu’s research achievements improved China’s level of cataract treatment and consolidated its leading position in the field of cataract treatment, and therefore won the second prize of the National Science and Technology Progress Award.


The application of innovative minimally invasive cataract surgery greatly improved the surgical safety and directly promoted the changes of medical model. In addition, Yizhi Liu also pioneered the daytime ophthalmic surgery mode in China. This high-speed operation mode greatly reduced the medical costs for patients and the country and effectively alleviated the patients’ worries about “the difficulties of getting outpatient and inpatient services”, hence setting an example for China’s health care reform. Relevant commentary was published in British Medical Journal to introduce to the world the experience of China’s transformation in medical model.

A Teacher with Passion and Expertise

Trying my best to conduct surgery for my patients and help them recover their eyesight is the greatest pleasure in my life,” Yizhi Liu said so and put his words into practice. Basically there is no room for holidays in his schedule. He always races against time to save his patients. He always deals with outpatients around 7 o’clock every morning. After that, he goes straight to the operation room. He just takes a few minutes in the interval of the operation to finish his packed meal, because he knows an extra five minute is enough for recovering a patient’s sight. Once he had a fever and diarrhea, but he continued to do surgery for a patient who had made an appointment, shortly after being put on a drip in the operation room. “I understand the patients’ eagerness to restore their vision. The earlier you have the surgery the sooner you are able to see!” he said. His superb and elegant surgical technique wins him great reputation home and abroad, and attracts a great number of patients. So far he has recovered the eyesight of more than 200 thousand cataract patients.

Yizhi Liu often warns his students about“being a neat worker, a dependable doctor, and a dignified person”. He said that to reject patients’ “red packets” is a basic rule for being a doctor and that they should not do those shady things.


Yizhi Liu knows that one doctor’s ability is limited. Only when more ophthalmologists master advanced technology for cataract treatment can they cure more patients. Therefore, he attaches great importance to talent cultivation. He has cultivated 43 doctoral and graduate students, among whom one student won the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, two are from the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET), more than 10 has become graduate or doctoral supervisors, and two won the honor of “Guangdong Provincial Excellent Doctoral Dissertations” and the nomination of “National Excellent 100 Doctoral Dissertations”. As a cataract specialist who has the most students specialized in cataract in China, he has trained thousands of cataract doctors home and abroad. He also sent trainers regularly to primary hospitals and passed on surgical techniques in person to help underdeveloped areas cultivate their own medical teams.

A Benevolent and Skilled Doctor

Applying innovative technology to benefit more poor patients and sow brightness to every corner” is a conviction that Yizhi Liu has been holding and put into practice.

In China’s remote countryside, some patients suffer from life-long darkness without any money to treat their cataracts, and some even fail to raise the money to go to hospital. The sufferings of these patients hurt Yizhi Liu so bad that he spent numerous weekends and “Golden Weeks” leading his volunteer team to those remote poor areas, giving up the opportunities to stay with his family. The team overcame the harsh climatic, living and medical conditions and brought the most advanced technology to Tibet, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Qinghai, mountainous counties of Guangdong and other remote and impoverished areas. In the recent 10 years, they have implemented high-quality surgeries for more than 10,000 cataract cases in the poor areas.


In August 2005, as an expert group member in the medical volunteering activity called “Health Express to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau”, Yizhi Liu built his temporary operation room at the foot of the snow-capped mountains. In spite of his severe headache caused by altitude sickness, he conducted cataract surgery for the Tibetan people while taking up oxygen. “I prayed to Buddha for help in vain for more than 10 years, and today it is you who let me see the world again. You are a living Buddha!” said an excited Tibetan old grandmother who recovered after the surgery, pulling Yizhi Liu’s hand excitedly. “We are Guangdong medical team sent by the Communist Party to treat you. The Party is the savior to whom you should express your gratitude!” Liu smiled and replied. Authorities of the Tibet Autonomous Region spoke highly of him and called him the first ophthalmologist to bring the most advanced technology of minimally invasive surgery to Tibet.

He tackles problems and leads innovations in ophthalmology; he serves the patients wholeheartedly using most advanced technology. With professional excellence, medical ethics and kindness to the whole world, he is a daring player in ophthalmology and a pioneer in China’s path to innovative development. He is Professor Yizhi Liu from ZOC of SYSU.