Dr. Me-Iung Ting

Half-length portrait of Miss Ting, standing by window, facing camera, hands clasped before her
Me-Iung Ting at the International Conference of Women Physicians in New York City, 1919.

YWCA Photo Service. Collections Library of Congress (

Quick Facts
Chinese American immigrant and medical doctor
Place of Birth:
Shanghai, China
Date of Birth:
Place of Death:
New York City
Date of Death:
July 15, 1969

Dr. Me-Iung Ting worked tirelessly to improve medical care for women, children, and refugees, even when it put her at great personal risk. Ting’s experiences as a foreign student studying in the US illustrate the influence of American medical education around the world

Describe a time you have made a decision that changed the course of your life.

Early Life and Education

In 1891, Ting was born in Shanghai, China. Her father Gan-Ren Ting was a well-known doctor and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. Although her parents and grandfather had arranged for her to be married, Ting followed in her father’s footsteps and became a doctor. After she graduated from McTyeire High School for Girls, a missionary school in Shanghai, she left home to prepare for medical school. Ting traveled to Nanjing to work with Dr. Li Yuin Tsao, a fellow graduate of McTyeire High School. After working as Tsao’s assistant for about a year, Ting departed for the United States to continue her education. 

From 1892 until 1943, the United States government severely limited the immigration of Chinese laborers and prohibited Chinese immigrants from becoming US citizens. As a student, Me-Iung Ting was able to come to the US on a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship.[1] With hopes of reforming the medical care that women and children received in China, Ting benefited from the standardization of American medical training during the early 1900s.

In 1914, Ting began preparing for medical school at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She pursued her doctorate at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbour.[2] When Ting arrived in 1916, she was the only Chinese woman studying there. While in Michigan, Ting began to become more interested in global public health. 

Medical Career

In 1919, Ting attended the International Conference of Women Physicians held at the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) Headquarters in New York City. Ting viewed her American education and participation in the conference as ways to support China’s future. She believed that if she and other Chinese women became educated and worked in medicine, they could bring about the conference’s goals: better public health, equal suffrage, and permanent peace.

After Ting graduated as a medical doctor in 1920, she interned at the Detroit Woman’s Hospital and Infant’s Home to study obstetrics. To gain experience with infectious diseases, she completed additional internships at a woman’s hospital in Philadelphia and at the Willard Parker Hospital in New York City. After eight years of study in the United States, Ting eagerly returned to China in April 1922.

Return to China

During the summer of 1922, Ting reunited with her mentor Dr. Li Yuin Tsao at the Tientsin (Peiyang) Women’s Hospital in northeastern China. By August, Tsao unexpectedly fell ill and died, leaving Ting to assume her mentor’s responsibilities and become the hospital’s director. Although she longed to return home to Shanghai, Ting realized there was a greater need for her services in Tientsin. Ting served as the director of the Tientsin Women’s Hospital for twenty years. 

Because of her work supporting women’s health, Ting led the Chinese delegation to the first Pan-Pacific Women’s Congress. The conference was held at the Punahou School in Honolulu in August 1928.[3] American settlement house movement pioneer Jane Addams served as the honorary chairperson of the Congress. 

That year, the University of Michigan awarded Ting a year-long Barbour Fellowship, an endowed scholarship for female graduate students from Asia and the Middle East. From September 1929 through October 1930, Ting returned to Michigan to research and write a book on prenatal care. 

In 1935, Tientsin’s mayor appointed Ting the director of the Tientsin Infants Asylum, which cared for orphaned girls. Ting was the first woman appointed to a government position in this Chinese city. Around this time, Ting also adopted two of her nieces, who she encouraged to study in the United States and become doctors. 

During the second Sino-Japanese War, Ting resisted restrictions imposed by Japanese authorities so she could help women deliver babies safely. During the 1931-1932 Japanese invasion of Manchuria, she assisted thousands of Korean refugees and offered them medical care in hospitals and camps. For a period of eighteen days in January 1939, Japanese authorities imprisoned Ting. The alumni association at the University of Michigan petitioned her release. Although the Japanese government gave no justification for the arrest, one of Ting’s relatives claimed it was because Ting insisted on flying an American flag from her car during the Japanese occupation. 

During the 1940s, Ting continued to support international peace and relief efforts as a civil war broke out in China between the Nationalists and Communists. She served as the chair of China’s International Relief Committee from 1943 until 1949 and later chaired the United Nations Emergency Fund for Children, which is now known as UNICEF. The unrest eventually culminated with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist government under Chairman Mao Zedong.

Ting eventually decided to flee China. Using a special travel permit, she passed through Hong Kong and England before immigrating to the United States in 1950. To continue working as a doctor in the US, Ting allegedly decreased her age by ten years. Ting continued to practice medicine for the rest of her life and publicly spoke out against China’s Communist government. She taught pre-nursing at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, and worked at a women’s prison in Connecticut and a school in Massachusetts.[4] Ting became a US citizen in 1969. On July 15, 1969, while attending a medical conference in New York City, she died of a heart attack.


[1] The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 opposed the presence of foreigners, colonizers, and Christian missionaries in China. When an international coalition put down the rebellion, the members of the coalition required China to pay reparations. To support its economic and political interests, the U.S. government agreed to allow China to pay off some of the reparations as Boxer Indemnity scholarships. These scholarships allowed Chinese students to study at American colleges. 
[2] The University of Michigan Central Campus Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
[3] The Punahou School Campus was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
[4] Tougaloo College was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.


Barry, Sara and Grow, Jennifer. “To Boldly Go.” Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly 99, no. 2 (Spring 2015): 28-33.
Albino, Donna. “Me-Iung Ting x1916.” A Postcard Collection of Mount Holyoke College. Last updated January 6, 2017. Accessed September 21, 2020. 
Ting, Me-Iung. The Me-Iung Ting Letters. Mount Holyoke College Collection.
Rufus, W. Carl. “Twenty-Five Years of the Barbour Scholarships.” The Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review: A Journal of University Perspectives 49, no. 11 (December 1942): 22, 23.
Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan. “Me-Iung Ting.” Discover Rackham. Accessed September 21, 2020.
 Martinez, Victoria. “Faces of Diversity in American First-Wave Feminism.” A Bit of History (blog). Published November 7, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2020.

The content for this article was researched and written by Jade Ryerson, an intern with the Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education.

Last updated: March 9, 2022