Canadian physician Norman Bethune (BSc Med 1916) was a military surgeon, inventor and humanitarian who greatly advanced medical science and helped improve life in his adopted country of China. Now, on the 75th anniversary of his death, a new sculpture celebrating his accomplishments will grace the grounds of U of T’s Medical Sciences Building.
The piece was created by Toronto sculptor David Pellettier, the artist behind the ferry terminal statue of late NDP leader Jack Layton. The initiative was made possible through a donation from Chinese businessmen Zhang Bin and Niu Gensheng, which will also fund student awards in Bethune’s name. The sculpture, unveiled May 30, is part of the faculty’s Bethune Legacy Celebration recognizing his international impact on health care and the university’s associations with China.
“The sculpture will commemorate Dr. Norman Bethune, one of our most celebrated alumni,” says Catharine Whiteside, dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “The celebration is an opportunity for us to recognize both the donors and Bethune, whose contributions will continue to inspire many generations.”
Bethune developed the first mobile blood bank service, which allowed for blood transfusions on battlefields. He also pioneered new surgical techniques and instruments, and was one of Canada’s earliest proponents of universal health care. He is revered in China for training its doctors and paramedics and ministering to wounded soldiers and sick villagers during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The life-size bronze sculpture features him wearing traditional Chinese clothing and a stethoscope. “I hope people who see it get sense of the man and his great achievements, as well as his deep humanitarianism,” says Pellettier.