2022 is a special year for Thomas T. Chiu, M.D., M.B.A.
It’s a year of milestones. After 45 years as a faculty member at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, 2022 marked Chiu’s first year of retirement. But, if you ask him, this year carries a more sentimental meaning.
“This is our golden anniversary,” Chiu said with a smile. “Anna and I have been married for 50 years, and we met actually in a funny way.”
Although Chiu and his wife Anna both attended the University of Hong Kong in China, it was a large expo in Osaka, Japan, that brought the two together. They connected in 1970 and were married two years later.
“She’s always been a companion to me,” Chiu said. “She actually sacrificed quite a lot.”
Chiu completed his pediatric internship in Hong Kong in 1971. He then ventured to the United States to pursue his career in pediatrics. In joining Chiu, Anna gave up her career teaching science and went on to focus on taking care of their two daughters, Christine and Charmaine.
Anna fully supported Chiu, which allowed him to make tremendous progress on multiple fronts.
When Chiu became the chief of the division of neonatology at what later became the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, he says the mortality rate for infants in Duval County was three times higher than the national average. It took only a couple of years for Chiu and his neonatology team to drop the mortality rate below the national mark.
“I think everyone should be proud of what we did to make that happen,” Chiu said. “I never put money first. Children had to be our top priority.”
Chiu and Dr. Bill Chan, a neonatologist from Hong Kong, built a strong rapport, which led to a clinical care provider exchange between Jacksonville and Hong Kong. Dr. Chan first visited Chiu and the new neonatal intensive care unit at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville in the early 1990s. This relationship only grew and resulted in strong professional collaboration across the world.
In 2012, Dr. Chiu stepped away from his role as department chair. At the time of his departure, the college had more faculty than any other on the Jacksonville campus, and the team’s research produced two-thirds of the campus’s research funding. This impact — among others — illustrates why Chiu received the Distinguished Alumni Award at this year’s Celebration of Resident and Fellow Education and Research Day.
“Dr. Chiu embodies what it means to be committed and of service,” said Dr. Linda Edwards, M.D., FACP, dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. “We were proud to honor him for the significant impact he’s made in the lives of his patients, students and colleagues throughout the course of his career.”
As Edwards welcomed Chiu at the Celebration of Resident and Fellow Education and Research Day, he turned to his wife of 50 years and asked her to join him on stage. He understood the moment’s magnitude and how his accomplishments would not be possible without her.
“I admire her,” Chiu said. “She doesn’t like to go up there, but I said, ‘You deserve it. I mean, you really took care of everything.’”
With the white coat presentation, Chiu’s legacy was once more commemorated. Yet, his lasting impact lives on through the many physicians and students he has mentored and inspired. In Chiu’s published book, “Building Bridges: The pediatric history between Jacksonville, Florida, USA, and Hong Kong, China”, numerous care providers shared testimonials. Every memory holds great meaning.
“I made a lot of friends,” Chiu said. “Not only did they learn from us, we learned from them too. I know that’s why our faculty, residents and medical students have done so well.”
Chiu’s daughters have done very well too. Both are involved in medicine. Christine Chiu-Geers, M.D., won the Hippocratic Award from the UF College of Medicine in Gainesville. She is a successful family practitioner with Capital Health Plan in Tallahassee. Charmaine Chiu sits on the Board of Directors of Smith Hulsey & Busey in Jacksonville and chairs the firm’s Healthcare Practice Team. She has received top recognition as a healthcare lawyer from the Jacksonville Business Journal, Chambers & Partners and The Florida Bar.
“I’ve been told Anna took care of everything. I was the good cop, she was the bad cop,” Chiu said with a laugh. “I have so much pride and joy for their accomplishments.”