Asian-born surgeon becomes German health minister

BERLIN: A surgeon of Vietnamese birth was appointed to the German government Saturday, the first person of non-European origin to serve as a minister in Berlin.

Philipp R’sler, who was born 36 years ago in Vietnam and adopted as a nine-month-old baby by a German couple, becomes health minister in the government of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A rising star in the liberal Free Democrat party (FDP), R’sler was until now the German state of Lower Saxony’s minister for the economy and deputy premier.

A heart and chest surgeon by training, Roesler, will have his work cut out as he seeks to get the German health system back on a sound financial footing.

He was the FDP’s point man over the past three weeks in negotiating a government programme for health reform with Merkel’s Christian-Democrats.

The reform is expected to lead to higher health insurance premiums as the government struggles to keep the system viable.

Adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage, he was brought up only by his adoptive father, a career military officer, as the couple split up when Roesler was aged four.

After studying medicine, Roesler, who spent much of his youth in and around barracks, became a medical officer in the German army.

He joined the FDP in 1992 and was elected to the Lower Saxony regional parliament in 2003. He was only this year appointed regional minister for the economy.

Roesler is married to a doctor and the father of one-year-old twin girls called Grietje and Gesche.

Asked recently by Stern magazine if he had been bullied in his youth because of his origin, Roesler suggested tongue-in-cheek that he had never had any trouble “because people always think that all Asians are karate experts”.

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