Dr. Jordan M. Phillips moved through the stacks and boxes of books in his small warehouse--"Inhalation Therapy," "Spores VI," "Vertebrate Physiology" and "Medical Virology."
They "come by mail from all over the country," the retired gynecologist said. "Local people also deliver the books here."
The piles of medical books and journals eventually will find their way from the Florence Avenue warehouse in Santa Fe Springs to the City of Tianjin on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Some of the books are new, recently published with the latest information. Others are used and more than a decade old but still valuable references, Phillips said.
1 Million Texts
Phillips, 64, runs a CARE-package operation, of sorts, for Chinese doctors, medical students and researchers. He figures he has sent more than 1 million free medical texts, journals and audio and videotapes to China since 1981, when he founded the nonprofit Medical Books for China with his wife, Mary.
Now Phillips is expanding his operation by establishing collection points for Asian and European medical books in Tokyo and Antwerp, Belgium.
Soon books such as the "Pathology Annual" and "Progress in Cardiology" in French, German and Japanese will be shipped to China in addition to English texts, Phillips said in a recent interview.
Because of the centuries of foreign occupation and presence in China, many doctors and medical students read English and the other languages. Phillips said he and his wife speak a little Chinese.
"The ultimate winner in this sequence is the Chinese patient. By sending them the latest technology, they're getting better treatment," said Phillips, sitting in an office decorated with Chinese art and furniture. "I think it's the most significant thing I've done in my life."
Phillips' efforts have drawn scores of thank-you notes.
"Respectable Mr. Phillips," wrote Xu Guo-guanf, director of the Ji-ling Provincial Hospital. "We are so glad to receive those precious medical books on surgery. . . . "
"You're so kind and thank you very much," wrote Zhe Wo Xin, head of the Taishan People's Hospital. "Those books will help us in medical works."
Officials at the Tianjin Medical College, which receives and helps distribute the books, were so thankful they suggested that Phillips be nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
Phillips is careful to stress that even though China needs the medical books, the country is well versed in sophisticated medical techniques from the West and from traditional Chinese medicine, which includes the use of acupuncture and herbs.
"In microsurgery they're very advanced," Phillips said. "They're No. 1 in the world."
During a visit to China in 1979, Phillips discovered that books of all types--Chinese and Western--were destroyed during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 under Mao Tse-tung.
"Every hospital I'd visit, I'd say 'Now let me see your library,' " Phillips said. "I'd soon find all the libraries were destroyed."
The retired doctor said he was moved to send out letters to almost every medical library in the United States--about 1,200--requesting donations. The response eventually forced Phillips to relocate his operation from his Downey office to the larger Santa Fe Springs warehouse in 1984.
"We started a flood. Next thing you know, we had books in the hall. . . . We were bulging at the seams," Phillips said.
He practiced in Downey for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1975. Phillips, who is the founder and chairman of the board of the American Assn. of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, still lives in Downey. (Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure.)
Out of Pocket
Medical Books for China runs on an annual budget of $50,000 to $80,000, most of which comes out of Phillips' pocket, he said. He also receives some cash donations.
On a recent day, a worker packed volumes into boxes that would be piled onto pallets for transport to Long Beach Harbor. Once there, they will be put in a 20-ton container and loaded onto a Chinese freighter bound for Tianjin, about 80 miles southeast of Beijing.
From Tianjin, the Chinese Ministry of Health distributes the books by rail to medical schools throughout the country.
Since the first shipment in 1982, Phillips estimates he has sent China 260 tons of books, or about 1 million volumes.
At first, Phillips would send every medical book he received. Now, the Chinese want books published in 1975 or later, and medical journals published since 1980, he said.
"Originally we asked for all books since there was an absolute void," Phillips said.
In 1987, one of the largest donors was the Chicago-based American College of Surgeons, Phillips said. The ACS donated 2,500 six-book sets on surgical care, diagnosis and treatment. Each set is worth about $300, he said.
In addition, Phillips recently began sending books on ancillary fields, such as dentistry and veterinary.
Phillips said Tianjin officials went so far as to build a separate facility on the medical college campus in 1986 to receive and distribute the thousands of books he has sent their way.
"They call them 'mountains of books,' " Phillips said with pride.