Ma Haide (George Hatem)

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Ma Haide, born Shafick George Hatem in New York, became a citizen of the People's Republic of China since 1949. He was a doctor and public health official in China from 1933 until his death.

In the early 1930s, with financial help from the parents of one of his friends, he and several others set off to Shanghai to establish a medical practice to concentrate on venereal diseases, as well as basic health care for the needy.

It was in Shanghai that he met the well known journalist, Agnes Smedley, who introduced him to Liu Ting, a member of the Communist Party of China. In 1936, he closed his practice and went to Xi'an to provide medical service to the Communist troops.

In the summer of 1936, Ma travelled to the Communist headquarters at Bao'an (present-day Zhidan). He was accompanied by the pioneering American journalist Edgar Snow. At Hatem's request, he was not explicitly mentioned in the first edition of Snow's famous book, Red Star Over China.

As the war with Japan started in earnest in 1937, Ma Haide sent requests to Soong Ching-ling, Agnes Smedley, and other notables to organize recruitment of foreign medical personnel for the communists' troops fighting the Japanese armies in northern China. He was among those meeting Norman Bethune when Bethune arrived to Yan'an in late March 1938, and was instrumental in helping Bethune get started at his task of organizing medical services for the front and the region.

He was present at Yan'an, when the Dixie Mission, an American civilian and military group, arrived in July 1944. Ma was a source of surprise and comfort for many of the Americans when they met the American born physician. Many accounts of the mission make reference to him. Known commonly to the group as "Dr Ma," Ma periodically assisted Major Melvin Casberg in studies of the state of medical treatment in the Communist territories.

Ma remained a doctor with the Communists until their victory in 1949, afterwards becoming a public health official. He was the first foreigner granted citizenship in the People's Republic of China. He is credited with helping to eliminate leprosy and many venereal diseases in post-war China, for which he received the Lasker Medical Award in 1986. He was one of the few persons who were not born in China to hold a position of trust and authority in the People's Republic of China.

He died in China in 1988.

During his lifetime, he was honored in his city Hammana in Lebanon, where the main square of the city is named after him.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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