Dr. Chijen Chen, known to many of his friends as Charlie, and for over thirty years a surgeon at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, PA, died peacefully surrounded by his family and friends on Monday, October 25, 2021, in West Windsor, NJ. He was 88 years old. He is survived by his wife, Yehchiu Chen (known to her friends as Stella, and to her patients as Dr. Hsieh), his children, Serena, Earl, Mike, daughter-in-law Joy, and his grandchildren, Lauren, Jake, Josh, and Nick.
Dr. Chen was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan to Kuan-Hsiung and Yang-Wang Chen on January 11, 1933, in the Year of the Monkey. He was the youngest of nine children. When he was older, he loved to tell his children and grandchildren stories of his large family in Taiwan, many of which took on the aura of legend - the fish egg soup that travelled many miles to the Empress, the bench with finger holes punched into it by great-grandmother and the poisonous snakes kept in bedroom drawers by the second eldest brother.
He had planned to become an engineer, but his father’s dying wish was that he and his brother Chihsing become doctors. The two brothers attended National Taiwan University Medical School, where Chijen met Yehchiu Hsieh, another medical school student and his future wife.
After graduating from medical school and completing his compulsory military service, Chijen followed Yehchiu to New York City, where Yehchiu was working as a pediatric resident at St. Luke's Hospital. Chijen and Yehchiu were married on November 19, 1961. Chijen worked for a time at Harlem Hospital before beginning his surgical residency at Lankenau. Chijen and Yehchiu spent time in Canada while applying for residency in the US. They returned to the US in 1968 when Chijen joined the surgical practice at Lankenau.
Dr. Chen was an esteemed general surgeon during a time of less extreme specialization, applying his scalpel to a wide variety of cases, from vascular surgeries to laparoscopic gall bladder surgeries in the early days of such procedures. He would teach young doctors to “practice their surgical knots 1000 percent outside of the O.R., in order to be able to perform 100 percent in the O.R.”
He had a lifelong passion for the water, swimming, boating and fishing. He and his family spent many summers in Ocean Pines, MD and in Avalon and Stone Harbor, NJ, catching blue crabs, clams and summer flounder for homemade feasts. He applied his surgical skills to cleaning fish, opening crabs, and shucking clams, once being told by a fascinated onlooker, “you fillet fish like a surgeon.” He was also an enthusiastic cook who shared his love of food with family and friends.
After retiring from surgery in 1997, in addition to the usual leisure activities of golfing, fishing and lunches at Concord Country Club, he assisted his wife with her pediatric practice not as a physician, but with office paperwork and record keeping. Later, as Yehchiu developed Alzheimer’s, Dr. Chen committed himself to providing for her care.
Dr. Chen was dedicated to his large family, which is spread from Taiwan to California to Michigan and the East Coast. He provided guidance and wisdom to his many nieces and nephews and other younger relatives, especially those who became physicians. For his children, he was a link to a world of ancestry and culture that felt far away from where they grew up in suburban Philadelphia. He loved to gather with family and friends - eating, drinking, telling stories and laughing. He will be remembered in that spirit, through the stories he loved to tell and the stories of his own long and full life.
Dr. Chen's family held a small, private service soon after his passing. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Alzheimer's Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter (https://www.alz.org/nj). Arrangements under the direction of MJ Murphy Funeral Home, 616 Ridge Road, Monmouth Junction, NJ 08852.