Holding Up Half the Sky


The Chinese expression “women hold up half the sky” has always resonated with me. The saying inspires me to seek out and learn from women leaders—women whose diverse life experiences, unique perspectives, and career excellence bring great value to their chosen professions.  We are very fortunate to be surrounded by remarkable women leaders in Asia who are working in the fields of science, medicine, and public health.  Moreover, CMB has been privileged to collaborate with many of them.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, CMB is introducing a series of short profiles of some of these exceptional women.  We are pleased to begin the series highlighting two exceptional women who “hold up half the sky” through their commitment to medical education, medical research, improving health outcomes, and broader social concerns, including health equity.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn continues a long royal tradition of support for medicine, public health, and health professional education in Thailand. Her grandfather, Prince Mahidol, is widely credited with introducing modern medical sciences and education into Thailand, and HRH serves as patron of the annual Prince Mahidol Award Conference, which brings together leading public health leaders to discuss priority global health issues and to propose concrete solutions. She has been a strong supporter of nursing education to enhance the nursing profession in Thailand. Through her many charitable projects, she has done much to empower women and children, especially those from minority and marginalized populations. She holds degrees in history, Asian languages, and education, and considers herself a lifelong learner, keen to explore technology, Thai art and culture, and foreign languages. HRH has been a most generous friend to CMB, supporting our activities, graciously hosting a luncheon to commemorate our centennial in 2014 and inaugurating our Bangkok office in 2017.

Dr. Zhang Shuyang is the first woman President of Peking Union Medical College Hospital (PUMCH), one of China’s leading teaching hospitals.  A noted clinician, researcher, and educator, she is a pioneer in the fields of cardiology and rare diseases.  She also serves as Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Vice President of Peking Union Medical College. Propelled by a big vision, she has advanced clinical cardiology in China, established China’s national rare diseases program, enhanced graduate medical education, and led a medical team in Wuhan during COVID-19. She has been a champion of competency-based education whose contributions to the China Consortium of Elite Teaching Hospitals underscores her commitment to excellence. The All-China Women’s Federation has included her among its outstanding women role models for 2021, with a special designation as one of the country’s 10 national “pacemakers.” President Zhang assumed the presidency of PUMCH at an auspicious moment—the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1921. CMB looks forward to joining President Zhang in celebrating this important milestone.

These two remarkable women are inspiring role models, particularly for emerging leaders—both women and men. We look forward to sharing additional profiles in the months to come. Please join us in celebrating International Women’s Day by thanking the women in your lives who work every day to “Hold up Half the Sky.”

Barbara J. Stoll
CMB President