Dr. George Hatem, an American who lived in mainland China for the past 46 years treated wounded soldiers with mina for the past 46 years, treated wounded soldiers with medical equipment he could carry in two bags over his shoulders. Later, after the Communists took over China, he helped conquer venereal disease there by organizing community campaigns against it.
Hatem, who had been a doctor to Mao Tse-tung and lived with the Chinese Communists in the mountains during World War II, looked at a different style of medicine yesterday - the expensive, highly sophisticated kind practiced in modern American hospitals.
He gasped at the amount of money it costs - America will spend almost $200 billion on medical care this year - and said that the $90 million being spent to build a new medical building at Duke University, which he visited last month, would almost pay for all medical services in China for a year.
"Here you have quite a sophisticated amount of equipment," Hatem, 68, told doctors and medical students at George Washington University Medical School after touring the hospital there.
He said he stayed in China after graduating from medical school to try to hel p treat the "miserably" poor people there.
Chine has suceeded in conquering diseases such as tuberculosis and V.D. and in lowering its infant death rate (in some provinces half the babies died before they were a year old) since the Communists took over in 1949, he said.
But, said Hatem, the country is about 20 years behind the times in medical technology.
"We have similar equipment, but simpler,"he said. "A lot of them, plus a little labor power, will do the same things. We just don't have as many buttons, and we don't throw away as much as you do here."
He was visibly impressed when Dr. David O. Davis showed him the latest wrimkle in X-ray technology-a computerized machine that takes a cross-sectional picture of the body instead of the usual one-dimensional view. Hatem, who is suffering from cancer of the pancreas, had similar X-rays taken at Duke.
"It slices the body like bologna," he said.
When his Chinese wife, Sufei, asked what is done with results of the X-rays, Davis acknowledged that the diagnostic ability often surpasses the available treatment.
In the case on view, though, he said soctors were able to rush a patient from emergency room to operating room in less than an hour because the sophisticated technoloty showed a potentially fatal bloodclot on the brain.