By Leland Kim
I saw him at UCSF’s Lunar New Year event, sitting in the front row, enjoying the movements of a graceful Chinese dancer in front of him. He was a cute, elderly Chinese man with a smile that lit up Cole Hall. He reminded me of senior citizens I encounter in Chinatown, a bit absent-minded and unable to communicate in English. So I didn’t strike up a conversation with this man in front of me because I assumed we wouldn’t be able to talk to each other since I don’t speak Chinese.
The senior citizen had a plastic water bottle with him. He was trying to open the top but wasn’t successful. He turned to me and said, “Excuse me but could you open this for me?”
That’s when everything changed. I gladly opened it for him and asked him how he ended up coming to UCSF for the Lunar New Year celebrations. Well, it turns out he graduated from UCSF with a degree in PharmD. Not only that he taught at the School of Pharmacy.
Dr. E. Leong Way is 95 years old, born on the Year of the Dragon. In a career that lasted almost 50 years, he published almost 400 publications related to substance abuse. He studied heroin, marijuana and amphetamines. Dr. Way has collaborated with more than 70 American and international scientists. He is a very accomplished and interesting man. I never would have known this if he hadn’t asked me to open the top to his plastic water bottle.
So I learned a valuable lesson: leave my assumptions aside and talk to people, even if I think they won’t be able to communicate with me. Thank you, Dr. Wey. You’re still teaching the next generation even at age 95. Kung Hee Fat Choy!