Campus & Community

CC Wang

6 min read

Faculty of Medicine — Memorial Minute

CC Wang of the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital died peacefully at his home in Lincoln, MA on the evening of December 14, 2005. Dr. Wang was 83 years old at the time of his passing.

CC arrived in the US in 1949 from Canton, China as a highly intelligent and quite energetic young physician fresh out of the National Kwei-yang Medical College. His first year in the US was spent as a medicine intern at the University Hospital in Syracuse NY, which provided CC good exposure to American medicine and allowed for a gain in fluency in English. He was successful in obtaining admission into the Department of Radiology residency program at the MGH in 1950 with the encouragement of his older brother, CA Wang. At that point, CA Wang was a junior endocrine surgeon at the MGH. Dr. Laurence L. Robbins, Chief of Radiology at the MGH, was highly impressed with CC’s clinical performance as a resident and offered him a two-year appointment as Fellow, followed in 1955 by an invitation to join the faculty. CC began to spend his entire clinical and research time under the mentorship of Dr. Milford Schultz evaluating and treating cancer patients. By October of 1957, Drs. Schultz and Wang were treating 80 patients a day with radiation therapy and conducted 33,082 patient visits. In 1971, the MGH created the Department of Radiation Medicine and recruited Dr. Herman D. Suit from the M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston to serve as the first Chief. CC was very supportive and accommodating to the younger Chief.

CC’s career was one continued series of clinical successes, in particular in patients with malignancies of the head and neck region, and resulted in achieved gains in rates of cure and reduction of the severity and frequency of treatment related morbidity. These clinical gains included the introduction of the novel techniques of delivery of electron beams directly onto the intra-oral cancer, the employment of accelerated treatment for patients with advanced tumors of the head and neck and the innovative use of brachytherapy

Except for a two-year stint in the US Army from 1956-58 and a one-year fellowship as an associate radiation research scientist at UC Berkeley for the medical study of heavy charged particles in 1961, Dr. Wang spent his entire career at the MGH and HMS. Dr. Suit appointed Dr. Wang as the Clinical Director of the Department in 1973 in recognition of his outstanding clinical skills and administrative talents. In 1975 Dr. Wang was promoted to Professor of Radiation Oncology at HMS, a position he maintained until his retirement in 2001.

CC Wang was very highly regarded by his peers, as is evidenced by the number of major awards and a variety of honors. Dr. Wang was awarded Gold Medals by the American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Chinese American Medical Society in honor of his lifetime achievements in medicine. In addition, he served as President of the New England Society for Radiation Oncology. CC served as a Visiting Professor at 19 US medical schools and 11 international medical centers and delivered over 100 invited lectures. He was the author or co-author of over 150 peer-reviewed publications and authored two popular textbooks on clinical radiation oncology and head and neck oncology, respectively.

A special feature of the character of CC was his undisguised deep affection for his patients. His activities were constantly directed to improve the quality of their care, often requiring much more time and effort for each patient. He maintained an exceptionally large clinical practice, treating some 20,000 patients during his career at the MGH. An impressive proportion of these patients was cured of their tumor and was free of any treatment related morbidity. Naturally, there is a large and quite devoted following.

An additional and extremely important object of his professional love was for the several hundred medical students, residents and fellows. He was an exceptionally effective teacher of oncology and technical aspects of radiation oncology. He advised young doctors that they must be characterized by “Ability, Availability and Affability”. He usually had a pertinent Chinese aphorism for any problem. For example: “The one eyed dog is king in the land of the blind”; “you cannot hit a home run if you do not see the ball”; on being certain to irradiate only the tumor, “You do not burn down a house to kill a mosquito”.

Dr. CC Wang was exceptionally well organized. His charts were consistently up to the minute, notes sent promptly and returned to the record room. This orientation was surely a factor in his being the department’s first clinician to develop a computer database for all of his patients. This was critical in the many analyses of treatment outcomes and publications of findings by CC and resident/fellows. In many ways CC Wang was a “Hero” to the residents/fellows. Despite an occasional bark, he was well known to have no bite.

A very special honor for this remarkably talented and productive physician was the establishment by Harvard Medical School of the CC Wang Professorship in Radiation Oncology. Dr. Wang was present for the ceremony hosted by HMS Dean, Dr. Joseph Martin. This glorious occasion occurred only a few months before CC’s death and was attended by many former residents and fellows as well as many grateful patients. The first occupant of the CC Wang Professor is Dr. Nancy J. Tarbell. Dr. Wang was extremely pleased with this appointment.

An highly important fact of his life was his love and devotion for his wife Pauline and daughter Janice. Janice, a 1981 graduate of Harvard Medical School, is an anesthesiologist in Florida.

A source of serious pride was an extensive vegetable and fruit garden. Melon specialists reckoned his cantaloupes to be the best ever tasted [quite unexpected for Boston to outperform Colorado]. During the summer, he had speakers set-up in the garden and when he got home in the evening, he played classical music for the plants, the favorite being Beethoven’s Fifth. He smiled when discussing this sound therapy for his plants.

Another object of his deep affection was his cat Norman, a constant and close companion particularly, so in the last several months. His daughter, Janice, survives Dr Wang.

Respectfully submitted,

Herman D. Suit, Chairperson
Jay S. Loeffler
George T. Y. Chen