Russian ophthalmologist Nikola Vasilyevich Dusan examines a patient at Daqing Ophthalmic Hospital. [Photo by NANA/FOR CHINA DAILY]
Nikola Vasilyevich Dusan has received more than 100,000 patients with eye problems in China over the past 20 years, performing operations on nearly 2,000.
The 70-year-old ophthalmologist has been the chief expert at Daqing Ophthalmic Hospital in Heilongjiang province since 2000, after retiring from the ophthalmology department of the People’s Friendship University of Russia in Moscow.
In 2009, Dusan won the Friendship Award by the Chinese government, the highest honor for a foreign expert in China. In the same year, he was invited to attend the ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Dusan and other Russians who had worked extensively in China met with President Xi Jinping in Moscow in May 2015, when Xi joined Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II.
“It was really a memorable experience for me to meet Xi back in Moscow,” he said. “I feel greatly honored because I am not only an ophthalmologist, but also an ambassador for the friendship between China and Russia.
“In the book that President Xi sent to me as a present, I found lots of Russians working in various fields in China like me. I am sure they must feel honored to be appraised in the book as having ‘made great contributions to the development of China’.”
However, in Dusan’s heart, his patients are no less important than the recognition from the Chinese government.
According to the hospital’s regulations, Dusan only needs to see 20 patients a day, but he usually sees double that number. He even often skips lunch to see more people.
“Before you raise the scalpel, you should know it is not only the patient’s eye but also all of his hope for life,” he said. “I am really happy to help restore the vision of my patients from almost every corner of Heilongjiang as well as those from elsewhere. Their trust makes me more determined to stay. “The expressions of gratitude from his patients also made him feel quite warm.
“I often receive various presents from them, such as flags, fresh fruits and even sunflower seeds and homemade tofu,” Dusan said. “I won’t refuse their sincere thanks and like to share them with my colleagues.”
In the eyes of his colleagues, Dusan is kind and humorous – in his spare time.
“Dusan is really strict during work,” said Li Jie, vice president of the Daqing hospital. “Once I intended to take a relative to him without lining up. To my surprise, he refused my request. At first I felt quite galled, but then I realized that he was responsible for all the patients.”
As a senior ophthalmologist, he never stops focusing on cornea donors and corneal transplant surgeries.
In 2007, Daqing Eye Bank was founded in the hospital on the basis of Dusan’s qualifications for corneal transplant surgeries. It is the second eye bank in the province, and the hospital became the only one to provide corneal transplant surgeries in Daqing.
Since its founding, about 300 corneal transplant surgeries have been undertaken at the hospital. However, according to Dusan, the demand for corneas in China is enormous.
“We should do more to encourage cornea donors,” he said. “When you die, you can’t take away light, but the cornea you left can bring others light.”
Every week, Dusan gives lessons to the young ophthalmologists.
“I like to impart all my knowledge and experience to them without reservation,” he said. “In Russia, people often say that a good teacher should make his students surpass himself. In fact, they made it. They grow rapidly and I haven’t been in the operating room for a long time.”
During his vacation, Dusan travels the country and records the changes in the past decades with his camera.
“When I came to China for the first time, I needed to bring all my equipment and materials that were essential to operations. But now, modern hospitals with advanced equipment have been established everywhere.
“The improvement of living standards is also obvious. I believe the goal promoted by Xi in the report of the 19th CPC National Congress must come true, that the country will continue to implement targeted poverty alleviation measures and ensure that all rural residents living below the poverty line are lifted out of poverty by 2020,” he said.
Li from the hospital said that since it was founded in 1998, 45 foreign experts have been invited to work in the facility, which has greatly promoted its development.