Professor William YONG

Medical Specialities: Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Chief of Neuropathology Section, Director of Brain Tumor Translational Resource
Location: Los Angeles, CA

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Professor William YONG

Dr Wu Lien-Teh is William Yong's second great uncle.


My father Dr. Henry Yong was a physician and he often spoke proudly of Dr. Wu Lien-Teh and his contributions towards halting the Manchurian plague. I grew up believing that it would be a privilege to continue this heritage of healers in our family.

Dr. Wu's fortitude in the face of an invisible enemy has been a source of strength during the two epidemics that I have encountered, AIDS and COVID-19. If Dr. Wu accomplished so much in a far less resourced time, surely I could play my part albeit as a minor foot soldier. In the mid-1980s when the AIDS epidemic was at full bore and there was fear and misinformation regarding the disease, I was a graduate student studying the most common AIDS virus, now called Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1. I had to culture and harvest millions of virus particles for my experiments. One had to grit one's teeth a bit and believe in the protective equipment and safety procedures to carry on. I attended medical school and became a neuropathologist.

At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), my main focus is on brain tumors and biobanking. Many clinical and research activities were curtailed to make room for COVID-19 related care. My other modest contribution has been to conduct research autopsies on AIDS patients who also died with COVID-19. Work is ongoing to study the brain and other nervous system changes.

Among the many things that he did, Dr. Wu too conducted autopsies. In infectious cases, we generally try to be expeditious but, because we know so little about this virus, I somewhat apprehensively spent a long time exhaustively sampling. The patient's tissues are banked and will undergo detailed study in the days to come. While all of us are facing the challenge of our lifetimes, I am deeply encouraged by the innovation, commitment, determination, energy and courage of the many who are working to defeat COVID-19. It strikes me that fear and misinformation are allies of every epidemic. Calm science-based leadership and research like that of and by Dr. Wu will defeat this pandemic.


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