Zhong Nanshan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, speaks during a news conference in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province on March 18, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]
China's leading epidemiologist, Zhong Nanshan, has received international recognition for the pivotal role he played in combatting the COVID-19 pneumonia outbreak by being named the inaugural winner of the 2020 Being Edinburgh Award.
The Edinburgh University alumnus is one of the leading specialists tackling the novel coronavirus pandemic in China and won with more than 90 percent of votes cast by students, staff and alumni.
In leading the Chinese National Health Commission's expert panel investigating the COVID-19 outbreak, Zhong has become the public face of China's efforts to halt the spread. He also draws comparison to Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England and the chief medical adviser to the United Kingdom government on its COVID-19 containment efforts.
The University of Edinburgh said Zhong's ongoing work resonated with the university community, particularly alumni living and working in China and students whose families and friends were caught up in the early stages of the pandemic.
Niamh Martin-McGarrigle, member of the Being Edinburgh selection committee, said: "During this time of international crisis, the Being Edinburgh Award allows us to highlight positive news in our global alumni community.
"Dr Zhong is an inspiration to students, staff and alumni alike, and embodies important values that the university aims to uphold: drive, passion, and sustained hard work. His win is well-deserved, and we wish him the best of luck in his research on COVID-19," Martin-McGarrigle added.
Grace Guan, the university's regional director for East Asia, said: "During the peak time of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, the nomination made many Chinese alumni immensely proud; it united and uplifted alumni and students across the world.
"The win will mean a great deal to our current Chinese students, alumni, and prospective students, for Dr Zhong represents not only academic and professional excellence, but also dedication and integrity, which is ever important in our collective efforts in addressing today and tomorrow's greatest challenges," Guan said.
In an email to the University, Zhong said it was an honor to receive the first Being Edinburgh Award. He expressed thanks to those who voted and confirmed a planned lecture series to colleagues in Europe and the United States about the transmission route, infectivity, diagnosis, and management of the COVID-19 infection.
The-83-year-old is a household name in China, well known for being the first person to identify the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS virus during the 2003 outbreak.
While working as the director at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, Zhong and his team offered to take all critical SARS cases in Guangdong province into his institute. He drew up the procedures for the proper management and prevention of SARS that were adopted by China's Ministry of Health. This pioneering work earned him the National May 1 Labor Medal from the government.
The medal is presented by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions to award excellent individuals who have made outstanding achievements in technology and management innovation and notable contributions to economic and social development in China.
Zhong was a visiting scholar at the University of Edinburgh between 1979 and 1981 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of medicine in 2007.
The Being Edinburgh Award was created to increase knowledge and appreciation of Edinburgh's diverse community of former students. More than 100 people from around the work were nominated, with a shortlist of people working on topics from gang and drug prevention initiatives to guidelines for the diagnosis and management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.