The First Chinese Canadian Medical Doctor and Missionary: Victoria Cheung

Carmen Cheng Biography

The First Chinese Canadian Medical Doctor: Victoria Cheung (Chung) (1897-1966):

Victoria (Toy Mea) Cheung (Chung) was born in Victoria in 1897. Victoria’s mother had been a student in the True Light School for Girls in Canton and became a Christian when she was still in China. After the Cheung family immigrated into Canada, they settled in the Victoria, British Columbia Chinatown area. Mr. Cheung soon discovered that, amongst all the Canadians they met, Rev. J. E. Gardiner was the only real friend to the Chinese people. Mr. Cheung was among the first group of Chinese men to be baptized in Victoria.

Because of financial need, Mrs. Cheung continued her practice as a midwife and left the two and a-half year old Victoria under the care of the Oriental Home also known as Chinese Rescue Home. Victoria’s mother was known as “Auntie Eight,” (八姑) who delivered virtually every Chinese baby in the Presbyterian Church and in Victoria Chinatown. Auntie Eight’s role as a midwife enabled her to build close connection with the women in Chinatown and bring many people to the church.

Gradually, Victoria felt the call to become a missionary to China and she shared her testimony with the President of the Presbyterian Women Missionary Society (W.M.S.) during her visit to British Columbia. The President offered her a scholarship to study at the University of Toronto Medical College starting September 1917. At her commencement, “when Victoria’s name was called, she walked the length of the hall without applause – then suddenly the whole audience rose.” She was accepted as the first woman intern in the Toronto General Hospital. After graduation, Victoria was appointed as a medical missionary to China. She took charge of the Marion Barclay Hospital for women and children in Jiangmen, now known as Jiangmen Central Hospital, which was originally established by the United Church of Canada in 1912. While working primarily in the areas of pediatrics and gynaecology, Victoria also specialized in treating infectious diseases. During her visit to New York, she purchased the “Elliot Machine,” a diagnostic and treatment tool, to be sent back to China. In 1937, she requested that the hospital purchase an ambulance so that physicians and nurses could visit patients in the rural areas who were unable to travel to the hospital.

Victoria was a woman of great strength, courage, and endurance. When Canadian doctors were evacuated from China during the Second World War, she decided to stay and assumed supervision over the hospital and four other refugee camps. In addition, she and colleagues set up community clinics to provide medical care for the local people. Victoria remained as the only W.M.S. missionary in Jiangmen during the Japanese occupation and continued to live and work in China after the Communist took over. During the Japanese occupation period, she opened up the hospital for refugee children and became their foster mother. She raised pigs and goats and other animals in the hospital as a source of food supply. Circumstances forced poor male patients to reluctantly receive care from this female doctor and yet Victoria treated everyone with the same love and care. A bronze statue of Dr. Chung was erected in the Jiangmen Central Hospital to pay tribute to her trailblazing achievements.

張薇(肖白)醫生 (1897-1966):加拿大首位華裔醫生 [中譯文]

張薇於一八九七年在域多利市出生。張薇的母親曾就讀於廣州市真光女校,居中國期間已是基督徒。張氏舉家移民加拿大之後,在卑詩省域多利市的唐人街定居下來。不久,張先生便發覺,在他所遇到的加拿大人之中,惟有J. E. Gardiner牧師是華人的真正朋友。張先生是第一批在域多利市受洗的華人中的其中一位。




Reference Sources:

Woman’s Missionary Society. They Came Through: Stories of Chinese Canadians. Toronto: Literature Department of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the United Church of Canada, 194-?. University of British Columbia Libraries, Special Collection.

Price, John and Ningping Yu. “A True Trailblazer: Victoria Chung broke the mould for women and Chinese Canadians.” Times Colonist (Oct. 23, 2011). City of Victoria Archives.

“Brief Introduction to Jiangmen Central Hospital.” Accessed June 28, 2012.

“Zhang Xiao Bai: Bethune moved to Canada, “no return” Social News in China. Accessed June 28, 2012.

Deborah Shulman. “From the Pages of Three Ladies: Canadian Missionaries in Republican China.” M.A. Thesis for the Department of History at Concordia University, 1996. Accessed June 28, 2012.