October 23, 2006

Several days ago, Dr. John Lu died at the age of 86. Unless you lived or grew up in the suburban confines of Tewksbury, Massachusetts back in the 1960s and ’70s (before the explosion of strip malls and condos stripped every last vestige of its small-town charm), you likely don’t know and could care less about who John Lu was, and that’s OK. Heck, what I know or remember about the guy we knew only as “Dr. Lu” can be compressed into a few sentences.

My earliest memories of Dr. Lu are of him visting our house for “house calls” back when me and my two brothers were just kids. (This was back in the days before HMOs, co-pays, pharmacy chains, and the threat of lawsuits turned a profession once-admired and patient-focused into one concerned with productivity and patient volumes, and performing defensive and preventative medicine more than anything else.) I still remember the brown doctor’s bag he carried, from which all sorts of mysterious things like stethoscopes, tongue depressors, and medicine bottles of various shapes and sizes would be produced and dispensed. From years later, whenever I would visit his stately white residence (where he kept his office) for a doctor’s appointment, I still remember the silence and expedience with which he went about his examinations, his vocal contribution limited to a quick, efficient question, or a “Hmmm” or grunt. After the exam, writing out a prescription or a referral, perhaps, the only sound in the room would be that of pen scribbling across paper. And then, a handshake and a few words, perhaps, and that was it.

By the time I started working at jobs that provided healthcare benefits – particularly after taking a job at Boston’s Lahey Clinic – the healthcare industry had started to change, and my days as a patient of of Dr. Lu’s had passed. Years later, whenever I’d be driving through Tewksbury, I would pass the building where he and his son Stephen had their new offices and I’d wonder how he was doing. And that’s all I knew about the man.

So imagine my surprise reading his obituary in the October 18 Lowell Sun and discovering that John Lu’s life experiences went far beyond that as a humble suburban physician (boldings mine):

ANDOVER — Dr. John Lu, 86, a former Tewksbury resident who was a prominent physician and surgeon in that town, died yesterday, Oct. 17, at his home in Andover. He was the husband of Pauline Lu, to whom he was married for 56 years.
He was born in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu, where he attended college and studied at the Peking Union Medical College during World War II.

He was involved with the resistance movement against Japan’s invasion of his homeland and participated in the wholesale dismantling and moving of eastern Chinese cities before the advancing Japanese army’s, according to family members.

He helped with the cities’ reconstruction in western China, where he completed his medical education at what is now known as Sichuan University, located in his hometown, Chengdu.

Dr. Lu was later incarcerated by Japanese troops on suspicion of involvement with forces fighting Japan’s occupation forces.

After the Communist takeover of China, he traveled to the United States on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. He later completed his surgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and was an instructor at Tufts University Medical School in Boston.

Dr. Lu settled in Tewksbury, where he was the chief surgeon and medical director at Tewksbury Hospital before entering private practice. He also practiced medicine at the former St. John’s Hospital in Lowell, now part of Saints Medical Center. Dr. Lu saw patients in his office in Tewksbury for 46 years.

He was a fellow at the American College of Surgeons and a diplomat of the American Board of Surgery.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a brother, Milton Lu of Lancaster, Pa.; a sister, Ai-Fong of Shanghai; a daughter, Priscilla Lu of Belmont; three sons, Stephen Lu of North Andover, John Lu of Andover and David Lu of North Andover; seven grandchildren, Vanessa Nysten of Windham, N.H., Damon Hunt of Boston, Stephen Lu of Saugus, Patrick Lu of North Andover, and Caroline, John and Benjamin Lu, all of Andover; two great-grandchildren, Marina and Arielle Nysten, both of Windham, N.H.

Pretty amazing stuff, huh? I mean, who knew?

So my prayers go out to Dr. Lu’s family and those friends and loved ones who mourn his passing. In some ways, it doesn’t surprise me that he had lived a life far larger than what I knew, for, as a kid growing up, in his own quiet way he always seemed somehow to be larger than life anyways. As someone who can only imagine the events he witnessed and the way they molded and shaped his accomplishments later on, I can only say, God speed Dr. Lu, you lived a life that was rich and full, indeed.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:15 | Comments Off on A Full Life
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