Dr. Tiejian Wu was born to Guangcai Wu and Lianzhen Wang and grew up in a countryside village in the province of Shandong, China. At age 15, he attended medical school at Shandong University School of Medicine.
After graduating, he obtained a master’s degree in Biostatistics and served an assistant professor at Shandong University. During this time, he met Yu Du, whom he married in 1988 at age 25. With their two-year-old daughter, Haijing, the couple moved to the United States in 1992. Dr. Wu completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Population Research Center at the University of Chicago.
He earned a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1999, and spent three years as an assistant professor at Buffalo. In 2002, Dr. Wu jointed the Departments of Public Health and Family Medicine at East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, TN, where he was promoted to associate professor and earned tenure.
Doing research was a great passion of his; he primarily studied child obesity interventions, rural health disparities, and clinical epidemiology. Dr. Wu pursued his research ardently, working with focus, diligence, and devotion. In his workplace, he not only demonstrated leadership, but was also talented at collaborating with his fellow co-workers. Always going out of his way to help others, he was a constant source of care and support for his family, friends, colleagues, and students.
He was devoted to both his family and the community-as a beloved husband and father, and as a member of the Chinese Church of the Greater Tri-Cities. As a serious thinker, Dr. Wu sought to be knowledgeable of current events, while also enjoying the small pleasures of life, whether it be watching sports games or playing with the family dog.
Even after he was diagnosed with cancer, he kept a positive attitude, often remarking on the ways he was still very blessed. He faced his illness with an inner strength and determination to the very end. Dr. Wu died on February 7, 2011 at Johnson City Medical Center. His last day was spent working a research grant and having a joyful dinner with loved ones.
After his death, East Tennessee State University's College of Public Health received notice that the National Institutes of Health would fund an innovative research project aimed at curbing obesity among young people. The highly interdisciplinary grant would have Public Health students at the university as facilitators in a peer-based health education program for area high school students. The NIH grant fell under the R-01 classification and was funded at $978,000 for three years. The R-01 category is a highly competitive form of investigator-initiated research grants. Dr. Deborah Slawson, an assistant professor of Community Health, assumed the role of lead investigator to carry on Dr. Wu’s work.
Dr. Randy Wykoff said Wu's research serves as a lasting reminder of his positive influence at ETSU.
"Even though TJ is no longer with us, we're excited that his work could make a difference for years to come," Wykoff said. "And because this is such a collaborative project - one that includes partnerships between ETSU and area high schools, as well as teamwork among faculty from throughout our university - it does reflect his spirit. TJ was the kind of person who naturally brought people together."