For most people, 60 is the age for retirement. But at 58, Doctor Li Huanying started on a new career path - to fight leprosy.
Now 86, Li has helped cure more than 10,000 leprosy patients and is still working full time on leprosy control at the Beijing Tropical Medicine Research Institute.
Her goal is to eliminate the disease from the country, which has about 6,000 patients.
"We have to detect and treat leprosy early so that our next generation will not be disabled and crippled," said Li, sitting on her chair in a 5-sq-m office. On her desk were copies of China Daily and piles of English-language research papers.
A bacteriology and public health graduate from the JohnsHopkinsUniversity in the United States, Li was the first Chinese woman to work as a technical expert for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Indonesia and Myanmar in the 1950s.
In 1959, she came back to China where she worked at the Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing.
In 1978, when the WHO set the goal of controlling six main tropical diseases, including leprosy, worldwide, the Beijing Tropical Medicine Research Institute appointed her to work on leprosy.
"I had only six months of experience of dealing with leprosy during the 'cultural revolution (1966-76)'," said Li, a petite woman with silvery hair. "But I had the medical background and am a fast learner."
She introduced the new WHO regimen multi-drug therapy - a free and simple yet highly effective cure.
Her efforts have played a big part in reducing the annual average number of new leprosy patients to 1,500 from about 2,000 before 1998.
Leprosy is a disease of the less advantaged and about half the patients live in the mountainous regions in Southwest China.
When Li shook hands with patients at a leprosy village in YunnanProvince, it shocked local officials and villagers.
On another occasion, she picked up a patient's shoes and put her hands inside.
"Patients often feel numb in their hands or feet, and can easily pick up skin injuries.
"I wanted to see if there were any nails or sand in the shoes."
In addition to medical treatment, elimination of discrimination and fear is vital, she said. "Fear comes from superstition, lack of education and lack of sympathy."
In rural areas, a patient is often considered a person possessed by ghosts and stigmatized.
"But I cannot understand why even some doctors shun leprosy patients."
Li, who is single, leads a simple life. She cooks three meals a day and favors vegetable salads. A domestic helper cleans her apartment twice a week.
"My greatest joy is to make myself useful and tackle the unsolved problems in leprosy control," she said.
Asking to comment on comparisons with Mother Teresa, Li gave a modest smile: "I don't want to go to heaven nor hell. I am simply doing my job."
(China Daily 08/30/2007 page 1)
1. About how many cases of leprosy are there in China?
2. Which university in the United States did Dr Li Huanying graduate from?
3. What does she think is important, other than medical treatment?
1. There are about 6,000.
3. Eliminating fear and discrimination.
（英语点津 Linda 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Bernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.