He scraped together money from relatives for one-way airfare and borrowed $50 from a college professor to make his journey from China to America in 1982.
Now Dr. Ming Wang is one of the most renowned eye surgeons in the state and the inspiration for one of the central characters in the 2014 film “God Is Not Dead.”
Dr. Wang was in McMinnville on Thursday as guest speaker for the Noon Rotary Club. His speech, titled “Atheism to Faith,” addressed his childhood struggles growing up in communist China.
Wang said the Chinese dictator was bent on destroying a generation of children and closed the country’s institutes of higher learning in 1966. Those schools were not reopened, Wang said, until the dictator died in 1976.
“He destroyed 20 million lives,” said Wang of the lost educational opportunities in China.
With his one-way airfare and borrowed $50, Wang said one of the first things he purchased was a Chinese-American dictionary. Through his studies and ascension through the medical field, Dr. Wang says he found Christianity. This has led to philosophical contemplation about the often juxtapositions of science and faith.
Dr. Wang pointed to the eye condition of macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of blindness. Key to furthering medical knowledge to treat macular degeneration is stem-cell research from fetal tissue.
“Faith dictates we should leave the fetus and embryo alone,” said Dr. Wang. “But what about the grandmother who is losing her eyesight? Science dictates we should pursue this research. The right solution is often the most difficult one.”
Wang said faith and science can often reach a compromise as evident by certain eyesight research involving the placenta from a newborn.
“The placenta is always discarded so we are seeking placenta donations,” said Dr. Wang. “I know you’ve probably been asked for money before. I don’t know if you’ve ever been asked to donate placenta.”
Wang says there are procedures in place for parents to donate the placenta upon the birth of their child and he stressed the placenta is always discarded after delivery.
Bolstered by his Christian faith, Dr. Wang has made return trips to China where he says, “95 percent of the people are not Christian.”
Dr. Wang has also founded a charitable organization called the Wang Foundation for Sight Restoration where he has performed procedures on indigent people at risk of losing their vision. Dr. Wang said he has performed more than 55,000 eye procedures in general since becoming a doctor.