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Yunxi Tan, M.D.: 1933-2019

by Maggie Rotermund

Yunxi Tan, M.D., professor emeritus of anatomy at Saint Louis University, died Feb. 10, 2019. He was 85. 

Yunxi Tan, M.D.
Yunxi Tan, M.D. Submitted photo.

Dr. Tan joined the faculty in 1990 as an adjunct professor. He became a full-time faculty member in 2000 and retired from the University in 2014.

Dr. Tan’s daughter, Yun Tan, M.D., Ph.D., also works at SLU. She is an associate professor in the department of surgery and works with students at the Center for Anatomical Science and Education (CASE).

A native of China, Dr. Tan graduated from Shandong University School of Medicine in 1954. He received additional training in education at Peking Medical College before becoming an anatomy professor. During the 10 years of the Chinese cultural revolution, he practiced as a general surgeon, as the higher education system shut down in China. 

“He loved to teach and do research,” Yun Tan said of her father. “Back in China we lived on campus and campuses there aren’t like SLU – it was a walled, gated campus. We would have to go say ‘Father, it is time for dinner,’ and drag him away from his office.”

During his time at SLU, medical students and fellow faculty honored Dr. Tan multiple times. He was named teacher of the year, 1994; most dedicated and approachable teacher, 1995; golden apple teaching award, 1996 and 2001; Nancy McNeir Ring Outstanding Faculty award, 1998; and the annual faculty excellence award, 2001.

“Dr. Tan was a beloved professor of anatomy here at CASE and within the former department of anatomy and neurobiology,” said John Martin, Ph.D., director of CASE. “He was extremely dedicated to educating students, going out of his way to come in regularly on the weekends for review sessions.”

Daniel Daly, D.C., Ph.D., an instructor at CASE, briefly interacted with Dr. Tan while getting his doctorate at SLU.

“I remember him as being a great resource to students,” Daly said. “His knowledge was immense and he had a wonderfully effective approach to teaching that was supported by his passion for educating about the human body.”

J. Douglas Schoen, M.D., a 1998 SLU School of Medicine graduate, called Dr. Tan the consummate teacher. 

“During exams, as we walked in silence through the anatomy lab with our clipboard and pencil, identifying the tagged structures, Dr. Tan would occasionally admonish us, 'Be careful, we try to trick the student',” Schoen said. “Meaning, take another look at that structure and think what else could it be? He really cared for the students and truly wanted to see each one succeed.”

Schoen added, “For so many of us, Dr. Tan was not only a beloved professor, but an inspiration and a friend. He will be sorely missed by all.”

In addition to Dr. Yun Tan, Dr. Tan is survived by his wife, Anna Huiqin Zhao; and daughter Qing Tan.