Sight: more about Dr. Ming Wang, the real doctor behind the Film

By ChinaSource |
Sight movie
ChinaSource

While this article is not directly about the church in China, it highlights the inspiring journey of Dr. Ming Wang, a Chinese-American ophthalmologist whose life story and work bridge the realms of science and faith. Dr. Wang’s dedication to restoring sight and his commitment to sharing his Christian faith through his film Sight offer valuable insights into how individuals from China continue to impact the world with their faith and perseverance. This narrative aligns with our [ChinaSource's] mission to showcase diverse voices and experiences within the global Chinese Christian community, encouraging dialogue and reflection on faith’s role in different spheres of life.

Visit the Sight website to find showtimes and purchase tickets.

On May 24, 2024, the movie Sight was released in theaters across North America. This Hollywood film is a rare non-martial arts movie with a Chinese protagonist, based on the life of Chinese-American doctor Ming Wang (王明旭), CEO of Aier, the world’s largest ophthalmology group. Originally from Zhejiang, China, he was forced to drop out of school during the Cultural Revolution but later attended the University of Science and Technology of China. In the early 1980s, he studied in the US, becoming a medical doctor jointly trained by Harvard and MIT and one of the few ophthalmologists globally with a PhD in laser physics.

The film, adapted from Ming Wang’s autobiography From Darkness to Sight, highlights his discovery of the amniotic membrane’s potential to restore sight, leading to the invention of amniotic contact lenses now used worldwide.

Sight movie screening

Despite winning Best Picture at the 50th ICVM International Christian Film Festival, the film company was skeptical due to its non-martial arts theme. Since May 2023, Ming Wang has self-funded weekly promotional trips across states. His friends joke he is running for president, but he says he is running for Jesus Christ. “The film is not just my story; it encourages more Chinese to tell their stories. For Christians, ultimately, we are to bear witness for Jesus.“

Some Chinese Christians criticize the gospel message in the film as not being “clear and forceful” enough, questioning why the church recommends it. Dr. Ming Wang explained to Territory that Sight is a pre-evangelism film aimed at unbelievers and skeptics. He emphasized, “The goal is not for Christians to feel self-satisfied, but to seek common ground with non-believers and initiate dialogue.” Ming Wang travels state by state, visiting local churches to share the film’s message. “I must bring up the Christian faith,” he stated.

Born in 1960 into a family of medical professionals in Hangzhou, Ming Wang’s grandfather received a plaque from General Cai Tingkai (蔡廷锴) of the 19th Army of the Kuomintang for “Excellence in Medical Practice” (医术昌明). Both of his parents were renowned professors at Zhejiang Medical University. During the Cultural Revolution, Wang dropped out of middle school in early 1975 due to fears of being sent to a labor camp.

He attended lectures at the medical university with his parents’ help, but this was soon halted, despite his thirst for knowledge. His father then arranged for him to learn the erhu, hoping he could enter a music academy. Wang practiced the erhu daily, feeling miserable as his classmates went to high school. After learning that the music school was not recruiting in his area, he took a temporary job wrapping books, earning eight mao1 a day. When the college entrance exams were reinstated, Wang scored fourth in Zhejiang Province and was admitted to the University of Science and Technology of China. In 1982, he and two classmates were sent to the US for graduate studies, achieving top scores at the University of Maryland.

Wang excelled in his courses, frequently published in prestigious journals, and served as president of the National Association of Chinese Students and Scholars in the US. His performance led to meetings with President Reagan and Vice-President Bush.

In 1986, after earning his PhD in laser physics from the University of Maryland, Wang aimed to attend medical school. However, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine dismissed him due to his Chinese education. This motivated him to work harder, achieving the highest score on that year’s medical graduate entrance exam. Despite Johns Hopkins offering its largest scholarship, he chose Harvard due to the discriminatory attitude at Johns Hopkins.

During his four years at Harvard, Ming Wang won the Outstanding Student Award, and his thesis was selected as the “Best Basic Life Science Research Paper of the Year” by Harvard Medical School and published in Nature. His groundbreaking work earned him a US national patent.

Wang also fell in love with ballroom dancing during university. He formed a dance team with his classmates and won the national collegiate ballroom dancing championship. This hobby later became a means to help the blind through charitable activities.

Dr Ming Wang

After graduating, Ming Wang completed his internship at Wills Eye Hospital, the top ophthalmology residency training hospital in the US, and his corneal specialty training at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, ranked number one in the nation.

Due to his exceptional skills, Wang was appointed as the director of the Vanderbilt Laser Sight Center in 2002. His patients hail from 40 US states and 55 countries, earning him a reputation for high success rates. Named one of “America’s Best Doctors” for several years, he pioneered laser artificial corneal implant surgery, completing over 55,000 procedures, including surgeries on more than 4,000 doctors.

How God Responds to a Scientist’s Prayer

Even academic prodigies encounter their limits. During his doctoral studies in laser physics, Ming Wang worked under Professor John Weiner on in-depth research into laser collisions. “At that time, I had reached my limits. I often felt insignificant and helpless, longing for help from a greater power. Although I had been exposed to world literature in China, I knew very little about religion. The concept of faith was very foreign to me, but a thought emerged: if there is indeed a God in the universe, now would be the time for him to appear.”

Lab of Ming Wang

In the lab, Wang whispered, “God, if you really exist, please help us!” Suddenly, he saw a shimmering yellow spot flashing in the middle of the gas chamber. Excitedly, he ran to Professor John Weiner’s office. Weiner was so overwhelmed that he knelt down and sang with joy.

“Two years of hard work were not in vain; we finally got the atomic collider to start. I was filled with awe, not only because of the success but because I felt as if I had experienced a supernatural force. This made me think that perhaps God really does exist, and he heard my prayer.“

Another memorable experience occurred during Wang’s medical internship with Dr. Hand, a pediatric ophthalmologist. Dr. Hand explained embryo formation, highlighting the precision needed for perfect development. Wang asked, “If human existence is accidental, then what is our purpose?” Dr. Hand, a Christian, replied, “I don’t believe that life is without meaning.”

This conversation prompted Wang to seek answers. Comparing a car to the human brain, he noted, “If a complex car can’t create itself, how could the brain simply grow by itself?” Dr. Hand gave Wang a Bible, and he read it thoroughly. “At first, I wasn’t sure if this book could provide the answers, but I felt it might contain secrets not yet discovered by science. The idea that life is created by a Creator with a purpose freed me from all confusion.”

During the process of inventing amniotic contact lenses, Ming Wang began incorporating his faith into his research. He discovered that while adult eyes form scars leading to blindness, fetal eyes do not. Unable to study fetal tissue without risk, he prayed for wisdom. James 1:4, “Let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” gave him the strength to persist for nearly twenty years. Eventually, he successfully experimented with the amniotic membrane, achieving a breakthrough. He saw this as God’s response to his prayers.

Over the years, Wang encountered many patients who couldn’t afford medical care. To help them, he established the Wang Vision Restoration Foundation, which covers patient expenses while Wang performs the surgeries free of charge. Each fall, the foundation hosts the “Eye Ball” fundraising event, where Wang showcases his erhu skills and passion for ballroom dancing, contributing to the charity.

He also made all patent information for the amniotic contact lenses publicly available, allowing more people to benefit. This decision, motivated by his desire to follow Christ’s example of loving others, was not commercially shrewd but showed his commitment to helping those in need.

Using Science to Glorify God

In addition to treating patients, Ming Wang shares his belief that science and faith can coexist. “People with polarized views can collaborate creatively and beneficially. As an Asian-American, I promote communication and cooperation between East and West, hoping to bridge the cultural gap.”

His church, Bethel World Outreach Church in Tennessee, emphasizes using media like film to spread the gospel. In 2012, with Wang’s permission, Pastor Rice Broocks included his story in the book God’s Not Dead, later adapted into a movie. Together, they co-founded the non-profit Common Ground Network, which developed educational courses based on Christ’s life. After publishing his autobiography From Darkness to Sight, Wang explained that the title refers not only to restoring sight but also to finding light through faith.

Ming Wang Sight movie

Ming Wang revealed to reporters that his current work is divided into two parts. The first part involves treating eye diseases in blind orphans through his foundation to restore their vision. The second part provides professional and paid medical services for people with common eye conditions like myopia and cataracts. “Some people saw the movie and said I was promoting prosperity theology, which is not the case. I have devoted over twenty years to this charitable work, which occupies a third of my work time. Many colleagues, including surgeons, do not understand and call me foolish. From a professional, medical, and business perspective, I am not considered successful compared to many doctors. But I firmly believe that in the Lord’s eyes, I am doing something worthwhile. In prayer, I have received God’s calling, which is to care for and help the group of blind orphans who need love the most.“

Wang also mentioned that whenever he speaks in public, younger audiences often expect him to offer some advice on life. “To young people who have not yet found faith, my advice is to set higher life goals. For us Christians, this higher goal is to do what God wants us to do, which is to lead a Christ-centered life.”

“I want to convey through the film that while science is undoubtedly a critical force driving human progress, it is not omnipotent. Science provides us with many tools, but these tools, while beneficial, also carry potential risks and dangers. Compared to this, we need Christ’s guidance even more because only he can lead us to a life filled with light. Science is a tool, and believing in Christ gives my life purpose, which is to use science to glorify God.”

Reflecting on his life experiences, Wang feels deeply moved: “Whether through smooth or rough times, all have now become valuable treasures in my life. … My soul has been healed through faith, and now I can love more fully. God has endowed me with talents and abilities, and I will continue to use them to help those in need. Whether physically or spiritually, I strive to help every person who wants to step out of darkness and into the light.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally written in Chinese and published by Territory, under the title, “电影《光明》Sight)原型“全美最好医生”王明旭:什么让我摆脱所有困惑?” Registration is required to access the article. It was translated and edited by the ChinaSource team and posted with permission. Christian Daily International republished it with ChinaSource's permission.

Endnotes

  1. A mao is worth one tenth of a yuan. Eight mao is worth about 11 cents today.

The views expressed in this or any other opinion article do not necessarily reflect the views of Christian Daily International.