HKUMed News (Vol 27 | Issue 2)

FEATURE Finding his expertise in demand Professor Lau returned to Hong Kong in 1992 on a wing of serendipity. Professor Belch had just returned from visiting Hong Kong, where she fell ill and was treated by HKUMed’s Professor Rosie Young Tse-tse. That was a few months prior to the end of Professor Lau’s Research Fellowship in Dundee when he needed to decide for his next path. Professor Belch wrote to Professor Young to ask for her advice and was told that the Faculty’s only rheumatologist was departing, so Professor Belch suggested he apply for the HKUMed post with her blessing and endorsement. After barely an interview, he was invited to join the Faculty. ‘I felt very proud coming here. Being brought up in Hong Kong and a through-and-through Hong Konger, I’ve always seen HKU as the top university and HKUMed as the pride of the university,’ he said. However, he soon discovered that his job would not be an easy one. The spectrum of rheumatic diseases in Hong Kong was quite different from Scotland, and full of heartbreak. Rheumatology patients here were more affected by autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus and presented as much younger and more severe cases than in Scotland, where arthritis was more prevalent. Hong Kong patients also tended to suffer kidney, heart and lung problems. ‘It was overwhelming. Patients fell sick very soon after being diagnosed. We gave them a lot of steroids and cytotoxic drugs that had bad side effects. And many patients had problems with their jobs and relationships as a result of their illness,’ he said. He recalled one young woman being divorced by her husband who had confused her condition with cancer, and another woman whose parents-in-law forced a divorce because they thought she could not have children. ‘That was very much the thinking in the early 1990s,’ he said. Professor Lau set to turn things around by filling the ‘Being brought up in Hong Kong and a through-and-through Hong Konger, I’ve always seen HKU as the top university and HKUMed as the pride of the university.’ 8

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