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Rediscovering the Chinese pioneer of epidural labor analgesia, Dr. Guang-Bo Zhang (张光波), and her unpublished manuscript completed more than a half-century ago
Abstract Number: T-59
Abstract Type: Case Report/Case Series
In 2011, while composing a chapter of Chinese obstetric anesthesia history for "Your side of the story", my (Hu LQ's) research let me add a brief piece on Dr. Guang-Bo Zhang. After having a phone conversation in Sept 2011 with Dr. Yuan Qu, the current chief obstetric anesthesiologist at Peking University First Hospital (PUFH), I was convinced by what she stated that Dr. Zhang was the first Chinese anesthesiologist to administer and study epidural labor analgesia in China. Unfortunately, Dr. Zhang's story was difficult to unearth. Only the following short statement was written: "Dr. Guang-Bo Zhang performed an epidural labor analgesia study with low concentration procaine in 1963 and presented her results in 1964 at the First National Conference of the Chinese Society of Anesthesiologists in Nanjing (aka Nanjing meeting)". which informed and altered Chinese medical community's opinion of labor analgesia.
On Nov. 19, 2016, Dr. Zhen-Yu Cai, an obstetrician and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of No Pain Labor & Delivery - Global Health Initiative, attended a conference at PUFH celebrating the 15th anniversary of their dedicated labor analgesia service. She serendipitously met Dr. Zhang there and texted me “Dr. Guang-Bo Zhang is here, and Dr. Zhang is a woman”. I became elated: we found the Chinese “Gertie Marx”!
With joy, Dr. Cai introduced herself to Dr. Zhang and asked a few questions regarding her study. Incredibly, Dr. Cai was invited to visit Dr. Zhang’s home. There, Dr. Zhang told the story of the first labor analgesia study. Her motivation and the underlying concept that compelled her to design and execute her study which started in Sept. 1963 and finished in March 1964.
Dr. Cai also saw the original manuscript written greater than 50 years ago (Fig.1). The documents were well preserved. Amazingly, they survived the Cultural Revolution. At that time, Dr. Zhang was suspected of spying for Japan due to her fluency in Japanese.
Although, by today’s standards, the study is far from perfect. There is no doubt that the newly discovered, unpublished manuscript (currently being translated) is one of the most important historical documents of obstetric anesthesiology, not only for China but also for the rest of the world.
1. Hu LQ, Zhao PS, Zhang Q. Painless Childbirth: You Must Know Your Side of the Story. 1st ed. Shanghai: World Publishing Company, 2012