by Xiaobo LaPresta
Translated by Jihong Xu
In New Castle, a town in Pennsylvania, there lived a renown Chinese physician, a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology. Wherever the doctor went, people from all kind ethnicities greeted him and asked to take a photograph with him. They always introduced themselves as such “I was delivered by you at….”.
On one particularly exhilarating occasion, a family of three generations came forward to him and said” You delivered all of us.”
That doctor was Dr. Pek C. Teh, who had delivered over 7000 new lives. For sure, as an obstetrician, Dr. Teh was surrounded by good wishes and blessings, but what else inspired him throughout his 43 years of conscientious and dedicated work?
When each of those seven thousand new lives was announced with the first blaring cry, he hit the splendid chord of the delivery room. Those chords added up to the most glorious symphony in the world.
I have known Dr. Teh and his wife, Jyhwa, for over 26 years. They were enthusiastic, supportive, humorous, and amiable. We shared experience as co-chairs of the Chinese Association of the Greater Youngstown Area (CAGYA) and became good friends. Frequently, we gathered and celebrated family events, such as weddings, funerals, graduations, banquets for retirements and birthdays.
As our two families enjoyed many wonder moments together, our friendship deepened. They have always been enthusiastic, supportive, humorous and amiable.
The more I have come to appreciate Dr. Teh’s personal and professional accomplishment, the more I understand what it means to be a “success in life”.
Soaring with a pair of wings
Dr. Pek Teh was born into an impoverish family Malaysia in August of 1947. There were five siblings and 2 stepsiblings. He had an older sister, one older step brother, one younger brother, two younger sisters, and one younger step sister.
Dr. Teh earnestly loved his mother. He told us that the family had limited resources when he was young. His mother managed the family fastidiously and provided for children’s education to the best of her ability. Mother Teh was a school teacher. She embraced her children with love and encouraged them to reach their potentials. Her words and her acts had greatly influenced Dr. Teh’s entire life. His mother believed in good education. In her mind, a child should be properly educated and equipped with knowledge and thoughts. The education would allow him to acquire a pair of wings to soar high in his adult life.
Mother Teh passed away 22 years ago, but she still has a significant presence in the family.
Friends who visited Dr. Teh’s house were mostly touched by an emotional scene: Every evening, Dr. Teh, upon coming home, would turn on the lamp in a room where Mother Teh’s portrait was hung. The delicated framed portrait reflected the warm light from the lamp. Dr. Teh said that he could not let his mother stay in the darkness. Then he would bow three times to the portrait to show his remembrance.
As a child, Dr. Teh, was often ill. Frequent visits to the doctor’s office had planted an inspiring seed in his young mind: to become a doctor, relieve pains, and save lives.
At 17 years old, Young Pek Chiew was admitted to both the Agriculture Program of University of Hawaii in the U.S. and a medical school in Taipei. Without hesitation, he chose to pursue his medical education.
His mother was agonized with anxieties when her child embarked a thousand-mile journey. Dr. Teh remembered his mother’s words to him at the airport where he took off for the first time.
“My son, you are so young, and you are leaving for Taiwan all by yourself. I do not want to hear you become bad.”
Dr. Teh left, carrying with him barely enough money pooled together by his parents and siblings, as well as the great expectations of his beloved family.
He was under tremendous pressure.
“Don’t come home before you complete your education. Otherwise, we would have no face seeing others.”
His father’s pleas frequently resonated in his ears. On one occasion he was dancing at a college party, the fatherly words flashed back. He immediately apologized to his friend and left the dance floor.
Working assiduously, Dr. Teh completed his seven years of medical training, and was assigned a residency with the Veteran General Hospital in Taipei upon his graduation. Dr. Teh greatly appreciated help and love from his wife, her siblings and parents while he strived as a foreign student in Taiwan.
After one year of clinical residency in Taiwan, Dr. Teh returned to Malaysia. Life was still hard at home. It was a two-hour bus ride from hospital to family home. He could only schedule biweekly visits to his family, where his wife and their new first son stayed during the period of time. Pressures from work and life mounted and Dr. Teh became more and more dissatisfied with his situation. He started to explore his prospective in the U.S.
“I would like my family live happily together. I would like to excel in a country with most advanced medical technologies.”
Dreams came true with heavenly aid
Dr. Teh had sent over 40 job-seeking letters to the U.S. but got no response. Still, an opportunity quietly descended. One weekend, he had an instinctive desire to go home earlier. He wanted to meet a repatriating high school
Dr. Teh hired a taxi and rode for two hours. At last, in that fateful evening he saw his high school teacher, Dr. Ah-Yin Eng, who had been away for over 11 years. The former teacher wrote a recommendation letter, and it had changed the course of Dr. Teh’s life.
Dr. Teh had passed the U.S. required exam held by the Educational Council for Foreign Medical Graduates , while he was practicing medicine in Taiwan. The organization thereby legally certified him for entrance to American hospitals and clinical trainings. Dr. Eng’s recommendation letter reached Ohio. In two months, Pek Chiew was accepted as an intern doctor in General Practice by the Barberton General Hospital in Ohio. Subsequently he entered an OB/GYN residency training for three more years in Canton Ohio. After the training, he worked as a house physician in Youngstown Ohio from July 1978 to June 1979.
To these days, Dr. Teh retells the story with gratitude. He affirmed that it was God that gave him the message to meet Teacher Eng. God always has a plan for everyone and he is in control. Dr. Teh had only obediently followed God’s calendar.
In June, 1974, Dr. Teh left home with two carry-on suitcases. He first visited Taiwan. His brother-in-law gave him $300 as spending money and borrowed airfare from a distant relative who operated a travel agency. Soon after, Dr. Teh set sails for his American Dream.
As soon as he arrived in the U.S., he called his wife. “I finally have my own home” he said, referring to the apartment the hospital provided.
Dr. Teh had only one goal: work hard to make enough money to pay back debts, to buy his wife and children airplane tickets, and to bring them to the U.S. Then the mission accomplished-three months later, the family reunited in Ohio.
Five years passed, and the gate of opportunity opened to him once again.
An administrative nurse from, New Castle, a small town in Pennsylvania, came to Youngstown, Ohio to purchase infant beds. She casually mentioned that a hospital back in PA was looking for an obstetrician/gynecologist. Dr. Teh immediately mailed his resume to the hospital.
Dr. Teh told us the story as if it was recent.
“I could never imagine that the famous Dr. Travis French, a Harvard Medical School Graduate, who practiced in New Castle, would interview me so quickly. I drove to New Castle by myself in spring of 1979. It was a small town and a small hospital. I told Dr. Travis that I needed to go home and think about the move. “
“Dr. Travis cordially invited me to his house. This was the first time in five years I met a boss who would invite an interviewee to his home. Well, as soon as I got to Dr. Travis’ home, I realized that they were well ready for me. I was surprised to be invited to stay for dinner. Before dinner, Dr. Travis brought a contract and put it in front of me. Really, I was definitely unprepared, and I hastily told them that I needed to go home to discuss it with my wife.”
“While I was in Ohio, another doctor asked me to join him to open an abortion clinic. This doctor had an abortion clinic already. Business was good, hence he planned to open a second office and needed partners. The offer to me was four days a week, and a guaranty of one million income in a year. It was a lot of money, very attractive, but I declined. I could not work on abortion just to make money. I would like to be an obstetrician, to bring new lives and happiness to the world.”
Therefore, Dr. Teh, with his supportive wife, Jyhwa, settled in a small town, New Castle, an hour North of Pittsburgh PA.
From July 1979 to January 2014, Dr. Teh delivered more than 4000 babies in Lawrence County PA. Even he could not believe how he lived through the most meaningful and joyful era. For the 38 years practice in New Castle, he had no regrets nor sorrows.
Dr. Teh mentioned a unique operation in his career as a doctor: he performed hysterectomy operation on his mother’s uterus removal. His mother came from Malaysia to visit the family. Later it was found that she needed a surgery. The surgery was a success. After the operation finished completely, the humorous Dr. Teh held the removed uterus to the nurses in the surgical room and told them: ”This was where I came from 44 years ago.”
Dr. Teh always praised God for giving him wisdom and opportunities. He was grateful that he met an obstetrics professor in medical school. This professor loved his profession and possessed a great sense of humor. Unlike other medical teachers, this professor encouraged students to choose according to their interests and passions. Dr. Teh was greatly enlightened by him and chose to be specialized in OB/GYN.
Dr. Teh was always thankful that God bestowed him with righteousness, enabling him to give up a million-dollar income with an abortion clinic 42 years ago. Plus, God gave him the joy of being loved and remembered by so many of lives he delivered into the world. A lot of infants grew up and came back to visit him. there was a handsome young man once visited him and revealed his future plan to run for the presidency. Dr. Teh said with excitement: ”Please take me to see the secret room in the White House after you become the president.”
Solid progress and development step by step
Dr. Teh, with excellent clinical skills, caring bedside manner, and strong professional conduct, treated all patients equally, regardless of their races, social statues and backgrounds. Step by step, he marched on his journey to success.
Now he had worked with Dr. Travis for several years. His two sons grew up too. He needed more adjustments and planning to meet the demands of family and work. However, being an obstetrician, he had no fixed working calendar. A baby does not call for an appointment when he or she decides to arrive. But Dr. Teh accommodated the infants’ calendar miraculous. with enjoyment.
I once told him: ”I admire your resilience. For so many years as friend, I have not heard any complaints. You are always ready no matter it was spring, summer, fall or winter. A phone call would make you jump up from your dream, and rush to the delivery room for actions. Your family was sitting down for Christmas feast and the phone rang. You would put down utensils to respond the urgent infant call. “
Dr. Teh worked days and nights for decades. As the singular Chinese doctor there, he was also very diligent and always tried his best to help his patients.
During one holiday season, other doctors left town for vacations, and Dr. Teh was on duty in the hospital. He had spent several busy days and was ready to travel for a conference. He came home to fetch his packed luggage in the living room. Exhaustion overtook him, he collapsed and became motionless. Dr. Teh passed out and was sent to the emergency room.
Blooms of entrepreneurship
This incident of overwork related illness, years of experience and thoughts, triggered him to rethink for his life and family. His plan was to challenge himself and fulfill his potential. Dr. Teh wanted to flap his wings to where utilized his full skills and rewarded him with a matching satisfaction.
In a small town like New Castle, you could count the Chinese people on one hand. A new venture was difficult. To open a new clinic and compete with an established former boss in the same town was not a simple matter. But Dr. Teh was determined and his wife supported his decision.
First step, finance. He applied for a $50,000 loan from a local bank. Predictably, his application was declined. Small town banks seldom stirred conflicts with the interests of their powerful residents.
After the first attempt failed, Dr. Teh paced in New Castle to find new paths, till he saw the sign of a Citizens Bank. Maybe it would be worthwhile to try a larger bank. His efforts paid off. Dr. Teh obtained a loan in two weeks after several rounds of detail discussions.
Dr. Teh commented:” A man ought to have confidence in himself and pursue his goal with perseverance.”
With the loan, Dr. Teh rented a 900-square-foot office space and started his clinic. He was soon overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of this small town. The tiny clinic lacked pristine facility, but Dr. Teh’s reputation attracted more and more patients. Sometimes, he had to see 50 patients a day.
Several years later, his small office reached its capacity. It was time for him to build his own clinic. Dr. Teh and his wife found one plot of land to construct an office building. This right investment yielded more than just success in his clinical career. Their office building won the New Castle Beautification Award from local Chamber of Commerce.
His mother’s words came true: a pair of wings lifted him up and he now soared freely.
Dr. Teh always discussed his past with dramatic reflection.
I have asked him if there was any unbearable experience and if there were any regrets. He responded that cases of still births would plunge the entire clinical ward in deep sorrow. Given such level of sadness, he would not imagine how he could had survived if he had chosen joining the abortion clinic for money years ago.
The American Dream led Dr. Teh to his success and happiness of his family. His wife was the unsung hero. Mrs. Jyhwa Teh graduated from banking department of Taipei ChengChi University. Intelligent and able, she was a good wife, who took great care of Dr. Teh; excellent mother, who brought up trouble free children; and for many years she was also a sharp minded professional who meticulously managed the office administration and finance.
Leaving home for Taiwan to study at age of 17, starting medical practice in the US at age of 27, Dr. Teh had practiced clinically as an OB/GYN doctor for over 40 years, His life journey was a journey of a giver.
He had delivered over 7000 babies in Ohio and Pennsylvania (over 2000 deliveries as assisting doctor in Ohio, and over 4000 as attending doctor in PA). Every new life he helped to bring to the world was touched by his love, and was emboldened with his compassion, and in return, each new life was his great reward and inspiration.
Dr. Teh delivered several Chinese babies in the area too. Many become returning patients. Mr. Eddi Ni was a well-known entrepreneur in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Teh delivered his wife Ling Ling’s three daughters.
Having worked hard all his life, Dr. Teh found it difficult to settle into a quiet life without midnight phone call after his retirement in 2017. One night, he got up, picked up his phone and asked the nurse if he had any patients that day. After being told none of his patients were waiting in the delivery room, Dr, Teh fell into an utmost unease.
Again, Dr. Teh decided to face the true reality. He put his nostalgia for busy clinical works aside. His next step was to donate his skills and passions to the world around him.
The pair of wings furthered his journey of giving
The 28th generation of great patriot and general of Zheng Cheng Gong, Dr. Teh exceled more than in his profession. He did not rest after his retirement in 2017. Instead, he engaged in local philanthropic and charitable duties with a group of professionals.
Dr. and Mrs. Teh established P J Teh Foundation to provide college fund for low-income youth and assist institutions for abused children. The couple devoted their love and care to people around them. Dr. Teh was also a board member of New Castle Crisis Shelter and Rotary Club. In addition, Dr. Teh continued his professional training and maintained his license.
As a final note, we are extremely grateful that Dr. Teh shared his simple and yet magnificent life story and experience as a giver. We found in him the virtue of excellent professional conduct and achievements from diligence and hardworking. We also felt in his heart the reverence of God. Because of his compassion and reverence, his works became blessings in other people’s lives.
Life becomes beautiful with the pursuit of dreams. However, a person’s ultimate happiness lies within everyone’s happiness. Giving up oneself for others is difficult but yet a vital step to attain true happiness. Dr. Teh’s enthusiastic determination to face life’s challenges made him successful; his love and sacrifice rewarded him a great wealth of happiness. Both will enlighten us to follow his path of a giving person.