Yushun Cui and Taihao Quan

Give some thought to Taihao if you have ever had skin cancer, or if you’re just out there enjoying the sun. You may need him some day. And give some thought to Yushun when your car steering responds quickly to an emergency. The work she is doing makes that possible.

Yushun and Taihao were born in the city of Yanji, Jilin Province, China. It is just west of the northern-most tip of North Korea and the Russian border. China has the 4th largest land area in the world (can you name the first three countries?)*** Yanji is much farther from Shanghai (920 miles to the south) than it is from Vladivostok, Russia (120 miles to the east). Today Yanji is a city of about 400,000 people.

Taihao is a medical doctor. Yushun is a design engineer. The couple met as undergraduates in China, and were married in 1983. After earning his M.D. in China, both Taihao and Yushin earned Ph.D. degrees in Japan where they lived for several years. Yushun and Taihao have a 25 year-old daughter, Hehui Quan, who was born and educated in Japan before coming to the United States in 4th grade. She graduated from the University of Michigan and is now doing graduate work in Medical Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Both Yushun and Taihao have siblings who live in China.

At home, Yushun and Taihao’s common language is Japanese because their daughter speaks only Japanese and English. Yushin and Taihao are considered Korean-Chinese because Tai Hao’s father was born in Pusan and Yushun’s grandparents were also born in Korea. Therefore, they actually speak 4 languages: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and English. They both say that they really do not care about which one is used as the primary language when they talk to one another. In most cases they speak in mixed languages. Taihao says, “ Sometimes, I don’t know what language I’m speaking, I just go.” But both say it seems to work out just fine.

Regarding the United States as “the best place to do research,” Taihao came here to do a 3 year post doctoral program at Wayne State University, then came to the University of Michigan where he is now doing skin cancer research. More specifically, Taihao’s work involves analyzing skin tissue taken from biopsies for the purpose of determining why cancers occur, particularly in older people. And he is currently working on a second book. His first book is entitled “ Molecular Mechanisms of Skin Aging and Age-Related Diseases.” He explains that skin damage can occur within a half hour of exposure to UVA rays when the sun is hottest, around noon. He also explained that there is a DNA mechanism that repairs skin damage, but sun exposure over a long period of time, cannot be offset completely. He says “nobody gets skin cancer in one day.” Residual damage remains and is cumulative.

Taihao describes his father, a medical doctor, as being interested in very little else other than treating his patients. He played no sports, had no hobbies, He was a role model of dedication to hard work. Norman Bethune, the famed Canadian physician, was also an important influence in Taihao’s life. Bethune, a noted anti-fascist and frontline surgeon went to China during the Japanese invasion of China (1937-41)** There he created medical surgery teams to aid wounded soldiers OF BOTH SIDES as well as villagers injured and sickened by chemical warfare. Dr. Bethune effectively brought modern medicine to rural China and is one of the few Westerners to whom China has dedicated statues, of which many have been erected in his honor throughout the country. He is buried in the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery, located in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China. The Norman Bethune University of Medical Sciences is located in Jilin province and Taihao got his M.D. at this university.

Yushun is employed by JTEKT North America Corporation, a Japanese-based company which employs 44,000 people world-wide. Her office is in Plymouth. The company is a world leader in the bearing industry and in technological innovations regarding drive line and steering components designed to provide reliable and superior vehicle performance. Yushun’s work centers on the design of bearings ranging in size from seven meters down to three millimeters.

Yushun”s father was also a doctor and professor, but she speaks of her mother, an elementary school teacher and later a principal, as the most influential person in her life. She says her mother never ceased stressing the importance of education, both in school and at home.

The type of work Yushun and Taihao are engaged in is somewhat stressful. Both describe working a good part of their days on computers. Yushun first discovered pickle ball and began playing in 2012. About 6 months later, Taihao’s curiosity finally got the better of him. He had been asking Yushun, “what is this game you’re playing that is so exciting and fun.” One day he came to MLM with Yushun to find out. They both now regard pickle ball as the perfect solution to relieving the stresses of work. Both say the exercise is great and much needed, but Yushun makes the point, “My mind is free. I don’t think of anything while I’m playing pickle ball. It’s very good.”

As for the most challenging part of the game? Yushun and Taihao have a basic disagreement. Yushun says the most difficult thing for her is “playing with very good players” – because they make her a little nervous. She worries that she may not keep up to their level. And, she likes to win! Taihao, however, says “I like to play with very good players. It’s a challenge.” Taihao has been a soccer player, and Yushun has played badminton and volley ball – but now pickle ball is what they most enjoy.

Taihao is 61, Yushun is 60.

**Japan’s occupation of China officially ended in 1945 with the end of World War II.

*** 1) Russia, 2) Canada, 3) United States (first 3 countries in land area)

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