Dean's Speech: State of the Faculty Address 2021

20 November 2021

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The provenance of this quote must be familiar to all. Dating from the Spring-Autumn Period almost 2,700 years ago, it epitomises the philosophy on what we would now call human capital development by Guan Zhong (管仲), prime minister of the State of Qi (齊).

The true essence of any university is its people – students, faculty and staff. HKUMed was the first faculty to have established a deanery portfolio in human capital back in 2013, that has since been elevated in stature to come directly under the Executive Associate Dean’s purview. Since the Vice Chancellor’s arrival in 2018, he has emphatically and persistently reminded us of the importance of recruiting the best talent and nurturing them in a supportive environment. Therefore, we have designated human capital development as our headline priority for this academic year. Let me explain further in HKUMed’s「一年之計」, otherwise known as the annual State of the Faculty Address

When I took over the deanship almost a decade back, the top three most pressing needs were space, space and space. The last major campus extension was completed in 2002 when we moved into our main complex at 21 Sassoon Road. HKUMed also took up new space at 5 Sassoon Road in 2011 but is only one of several tenant faculties at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Building for Interdisciplinary Research. There has been no new space for us to grow since. Meanwhile, the size of the Faculty has grown by leaps and bounds. Looking at undergraduate student numbers alone, in 2002, we offered only four programmes, consisting of 303 first-year-first-degree places. For the 2022 intake, we will be admitting 295 MBBS, 210 BNurs, 35 BPharm, 20 BChinMed, 38 BBiomedSc, 20 BASc (Global Health and Development) and 15 BSc (Bioinformatics) first-year students. We have doubled both the number of programmes offered as well as our total undergraduate intake over the past 20 years, from 303 to 633 per year.

During that time, with the increase in student places came 73% more faculty members, who in turn require laboratory space, and the recruitment of postdocs and research postgraduates (RPgs). For instance, the number of RPgs, while still in short supply, has already tripled from 283 to 813. Therefore we formulated our「十年之計」at the beginning of my deanship nine years ago to develop new space. I am gratified to report to you today that we are now beginning to realise those building dreams.


Building dreams

First, the Faculty Administration Wing on Tang Court, eponymously named after one of my predecessors Professor Grace Tang’s family, was just commissioned this September along with extension and improvement works in the William Mong Building at 21 Sassoon Road. The Schools of Nursing and Chinese Medicine are getting ready to move into 3 Sassoon Road during the coming summer. Our research team leaders have been busily working with architects to put the finishing touches on detailed 1:50 design plans for the University Block at Grantham Hospital that is slated for completion by the end of 2024. At around the same time, the first of two new clinical training and amenities buildings, incorporating student residential places, will be ready for occupation. Finally, to coincide with our 140th anniversary in 2027, the second clinical training and amenities building will be commissioned together with the green belt development along Pokfulam Road between 3 Sassoon Road and the Ebenezer School.

With the support of Government that has been increasingly invested in innovation and technology development for Hong Kong’s future, our research footprints have spread beyond the Island to now include 5,000 sqm laboratory and other work space at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park as well as 1,100 sqm at the Hong Kong Children’s Hospital.

Altogether, we will have expanded from 40,000 sqm to 64,000 sqm, equivalent to more than a 50% increase of net operating floor area.

Having secured our space needs in situ for the Pokfulam campus and in Hong Kong generally, at least for the medium term, we cast our sight to the other side of the Shenzhen River.


The China Dream: health care and health tech in the Greater Bay Area

This September, the University signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a second campus in Nanshan district of Shenzhen that would complement the Hong Kong campus in Pokfulam. Whereas the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese preceded the University by 25 years, HKU-Shenzhen Hospital is already celebrating its tenth anniversary. HKUMed has been and will always be pioneers, opening up fresh tracks with our own footprints. Those tracks were paved with the gut, sweat and tears of our colleagues who had hand-carried scarce supplies every day they crossed the border, held their heads high when all around them deemed the project infeasible, resolved a long-running debt repayment crisis, fought off a corporate takeover bid, calmed labour unease with the introduction of modern human resources best practice, and kept faith and rallied the crew when support on the home front has been less than embracing.

While University Central has not planned for HKUMed to be amongst the first group of faculties venturing into Shenzhen, we plough on readying ourselves for a full-fledged northern medical campus that is now more than three years in the making and counting. Some worry that much time has been lost and opportunities forgone; I nevertheless remain confident that there is a bright future ahead. The 14th Five-year Plan envisions health innovation and technology as a national strategic cornerstone for the Greater Bay Area. Shenzhen is arguably becoming more dynamic than Silicon Valley for digital technology companies, and has invested very substantially in health care infrastructure and training. Hong Kong retains its leading edge as Asia’s medical hub. All the ingredients for integrated success are ripe for harvest. Our job is to ensure the fruits are picked in good time. As the Director of the Central People’s Government Liaison Office said in August: 「不進則退,慢進也是退」, whereas the Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office summed it up more parochially as「蘇州過後無艇搭」.

Reassuringly, I am pleased to report that we are well on our way to renewing our collaborative agreement with the Shenzhen municipal government in operating the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital. Vice President Professor Peng Gong is leading that effort on the University’s behalf. And by 2027, on the 140th anniversary of HKUMed, a new clinical block of 1,000 additional beds and a research block equivalent in floor area to the Laboratory Block at 21 Sassoon Road will be completed at the Hospital. This enhanced capacity for clinical service delivery and evolution towards a truly research-led academic health science complex is a milestone to which we all look forward.


終身之計,莫如樹人 (A lifelong mission of nurturing people) 

Having sketched out various huge efforts at upgrading the built infrastructure on both sides of the border, let me now turn to the crux of 管子’s lifelong mission or「終身之計」, which is of course「莫如樹人」or human capital development. As I said at the beginning, echoing my repeated emphases back in the 2013, 2015, 2017 and most recently 2019 State of the Faculty Addresses, human capital is at the heart of what we do and who we are. But precisely how should a school expand, enhance and enrich its human capital?

Research metrics, prizes and awards are often ready proxies for quality. By these measures, we have completed the year in spades. Topping the list are Professors Guan Yi (Public Health), Malik Peiris (Public Health) and Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology). The first two became laureates of the 2021 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award “for significantly contributing to understanding the origins and options for control of newly emerging infectious disease outbreaks in Asia, notably zoonotic influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).” The last two were awarded the 2021 Future Science Prize in Life Sciences “for their discoveries of SARS-CoV-1 as the causative agent for the global SARS outbreak in 2003 and its zoonotic origin, with impact on combating Covid-19 and emerging infectious diseases.”

Dr Maria Zhu Huachen (Public Health) won the 16th National Young Woman Scientist Award (中國青年女科學家獎) for her work in emerging infectious diseases, especially steering the establishment of the Shantou University-HKU Joint Virology Laboratory with her mentor Guan Yi.

Professor Chen Honglin (Microbiology) led his team to win a Gold Award with Congratulations of the Jury at the 2021 Inventions Geneva Evaluation Days for their work on an intranasal influenza virus-backboned COVID vaccine that will hopefully become a useful next-generation option as we transition from pandemic to endemic.

Professor Jin Dong-yan (Biomedical Sciences), Dr Vincent Lui (Surgery) and Professor Leo Poon (Public Health) won three out of the four health-related Theme-based Research Scheme projects awarded by the Research Grants Council this year.

Of course our colleagues continue to make important contributions to the ongoing pandemic control effort, locally, nationally and globally. One yardstick, amongst many others, would be the number of citations already accrued of our COVID-19 related papers. HKUMed has produced 16 papers that have already attracted at least 1,000 citations each, with the top paper alone having been cited 14,000 times to date.1

On the topic of citations, four days ago, Clarivate Analytics announced that a record 17 colleagues attained the coveted “Highly Cited Researcher” or HCR status. HCR is determined by production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in Web of Science. HKUMed’s proportion made up more than half of the University’s total 31 researchers so honoured. This has lifted HKU to being included amongst the top 50 schools worldwide in terms of number of researchers judged as HCR.

You will find a full list of notable achievements during the past academic year at the end of the printed Address.

Notwithstanding these impressive statistics and reputational accolades, I keep revisiting a few questions that go to the very heart of our raison d’être. Would assembling an ever larger contingent of people with high h-indices who have already garnered international recognition be a sufficient, or even desirable, aim for a medical school? Or perhaps we could more single-mindedly coach and cajole our own towards the same research metrics-driven goals? If still not entirely satisfactory, what else is missing from the definition of rich human capital?

Let me relate a couple of stories I witnessed in the past month alone. I was visiting a colleague who was recently hospitalised on his birthday. Given COVID restrictions, there was no family visitation allowed. Just as I was leaving, a former medical student who is now almost ready to exit her specialist training came into the room with a takeout dinner from the hospital cafeteria, given that hospital meals were hardly appetising. I commended her for her thoughtfulness, and quietly alerted her that it was the patient’s birthday. She beamed back and showed me a chocolate bar she had in her whitecoat pocket, signalling that was going to be the “birthday cake” after dinner. That was what a caring doctor should look like. That was empathy. That was the art of medicine which our medical humanities programme aims to inculcate. And that was immeasurable by impact factor analysis.

Another former colleague recently spent down much of her already dwindling political capital, against all odds internal and external, to push through a complete ban of all non-traditional tobacco products, including both electronic cigarettes and heat-not-burn devices. Why would a politician in today’s environment, risk her personal stakes over a piece of legislation, even if implemented with the desired effect, that would not allow her to win political plaudits? To underscore the science underpinning her new legislative fiat, another junior academic colleague effectively rendered his two children orphans for a month to rush through round after round of new analyses and simulations that culminated in an 80-page supplementary appendix. This herculean effort led to timely acceptance of the paper in a high profile journal that was disseminated in the lay media, which in turn directly and positively influenced the final session of the bill’s committee proceedings. The law finally passed third reading last month in the Legislative Council. That was an affirmation of「上醫治國」. That was lifesaving impact of hundreds of thousands of tobacco-related deaths averted in the decades to come. And that was immeasurable by research metrics.

On recognising impact by unsung heroes, there were a few most worthy of honourable mention that is two decades overdue. They had absolutely enabled the headline success of our own professors who have been recognised by the Gairdner and Future Science awards for discovering the SARS coronavirus back in 2003. At the risk of being invidious and non-exhaustive, they include our longtime HKUMed colleagues Dr Chan Kwok-hung (Microbiology), Professors John Nicholls (Pathology) and Leo Poon (Public Health), Drs Wilina Lim at the Department of Health and Dominic Tsang (Medic 1984) at the Hospital Authority who anchored the first response in the public sector, and individual clinicians looking after the very earliest patients at Kwong Wah Hospital such as Dr Wilson Yee who was the attending physician, Dr Ko Kai-ming (Medic 1975) who carried out the first open lung biopsy despite grave personal risks, Dr Elaine Gwi who arranged for the sample to be shared, and Professor John Chan (Medic 1981) who provided corroborating evidence by electron microscopy.

During the course of this academic year, we will be bidding farewell to two distinguished colleagues. Professor Paul Tam, former acting Vice Chancellor, interim Provost, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Research) and Associate Dean (Research) will be retiring from HKU and joining the Macau University of Science and Technology, working alongside its President Professor Joseph Lee who was HKU’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for staffing, or in today’s nomenclature academic development. I am glad though that he will be continuing his research at the University, not least in the Theme-based Research Scheme programme headed by Dr Vincent Lui, his protégé. Without Paul, there would have been no TRS, full stop.

Professor Keiji Fukuda, Director of the School of Public Health, who was first introduced to Hong Kong during the 1997 avian influenza outbreak as part of the US CDC delegation will be retiring to Atlanta, home of the CDC, completing the full circle of the past quarter century. Keiji has long been a personal friend and global health collaborator, through SARS, MERS, the 2009 swine flu pandemic and of course the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I still remember well the many conversations I and others had had with Keiji, persuading him to come to HKUMed. These took several years spanning different continents, from Geneva to Atlanta to Doha, before two important women would support his move – Holly his dear dear wife and Dr Margaret Chan, former Director-General of the World Health Organization and his former boss. I thank them both for having supported Keiji and HKU throughout these years of his service to the University and wish him and Holly well.


Success at succession

The retirement of senior leaders reminds us of the vital importance of ongoing leadership renewal. It is a perennial goal of any successful organisation, not least in a university faculty. Sometimes it feels Sisyphean, especially when there is disequilibrium between attrition and availability. The 2019 social unrest and its aftermath coupled with COVID-19, against a longrunning background of the peculiarities of the local medical labour market have together made for a less than optimistic pool of appropriately qualified and interested leadership candidates in many fields.

Despite these odds, I am delighted to have welcomed during the past year Professors Wing Leung and Chris Leung who respectively lead Paediatrics and Ophthalmology. Wing has enjoyed a distinguished career at the world-renown St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and the National University of Singapore before joining HKUMed. Chris comes to us from across the Lion Rock and is without doubt a leading clinician cum translational visual scientist in Asia. We will soon welcome a brilliant radiologist who formerly headed a major US department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He was chosen as a recipient of the highly selective government Global STEM professorship. I am sure he will be taking our Department of Diagnostic Radiology to new heights. Closer to home, I have recently appointed four younger colleagues to the headships of Microbiology, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Orthopaedics and Traumatology, and Psychiatry. They are a new generation of HKUMed leaders who will bring fresh thinking and youthful energy to the many challenges and tasks ahead.


Leading by listening 

The original Silicon Valley firm, Hewlett-Packard, pioneered the management principle of “managing by walking around”. Taking a leaf out of its books, I sat down with all 200 assistant and associate professors, in groups of a dozen or so during the month of September. Importantly I listened to and heard them out on a whole range of topics, ranging from career prospects to the academic and general environment to personal aspirations. And last month in October, I continued my annual tradition of holding town hall meetings with students from each of our undergraduate and research postgraduate programmes. Together we resolved quick and easy issues on the spot, like captioning and uploading of archived e-learning videos or provision of additional microwave ovens; as well as acted as mutual sounding boards on deeper and more complex areas of interest such as reforming the MBBS clinical curriculum or the impact of the future Chinese Medicine Hospital on teaching and learning.

These sessions have been very useful in grounding my colleagues and I in the everyday realities of our stakeholders, whom we serve in addition to lead.


Meritocracy and equality of opportunity

So far I have talked about buildings and professors, but scarcely mentioned the very subjects in whose name we serve. We are not a technical research institute but a school. As such we must always remember that students are at the heart of our being. It is at least as important to recruit students than faculty. Therefore, we expend much deliberate energy in thinking about whom and how we admit.

In the East, the Confucian moral ideal of well-educated rulers has always found syntonic echo with the Platonic concept of the philosopher king in the Athenian states. Since the end of World War II, this age-old emphasis on intelligence and ability as traits that societies should value has resulted in the rise of the meritocracy, in much of the developed world. One can understand it, at least in part, as a default by exclusion after experientially rejecting feudal aristocracy or collectivisation.

Being at the intersection of the East and the West and per se an exemplar of Milton Friedman’s free market economy par excellence and very much a product of and beneficiary of globalisation, Hong Kong, like most other cosmopolitan, urbane and smart metropolises has come to represent the pinnacle expression of meritocracy. 

This has percolated through every facet of society, including university admissions. On the surface of it, meritocracy is a system that intends to give each new generation an equal chance to rise to the top by dint of their natural abilities and through hard work. Who could argue with that? But when educated professional elites pass on their connections, money, work ethic and ambitions to their children, while offsprings of the working class lack most of these “heritable” traits, the gap endowed by the meritocratic advantage grows into an unbridgeable chasm and becomes entrenched intergenerationally.

When this apparently “fair” hierarchy hardens, like it has in Hong Kong as elsewhere over the decades, two problems inevitably emerge. First, the system is cruel because it justifies why some people fail. “Perhaps they should have worked harder and aimed higher”, so the saying too often goes. This leads to resentment and shame. Second, even for the winners in this system, there is a constant hum of anxiety that one is never good enough. Nowhere is this more true than in the preparation for university entrance examinations and interviews. The dystopian tutorial school and extracurricular activities merry-go-round suffered by every pupil is one such manifestation. Therefore many mainland teachers and parents breathed a quiet sigh of relief when the national government intervened recently, although finance types might have grumbled about the way it was executed.

Ultimately though, one still needs to address the root reason – university admissions. That was why since 2013, HKUMed is the first and only school, to have explicitly set a reserved quota of at least three-quarters of available places for graduates of the local high school diploma system. It was not because of local favouritism but a recognition that the DSE2 is the only system that is truly open to all and that empirically other routes of entry are dominated by applicants from more advantaged families.

We have upheld this self-imposed, equity-driven 75% JUPAS3 floor quota in our MBBS4 admissions ever since. However, given the JUPAS mechanism, one cannot predict how many of these offers are eventually “matched” by the system, after incorporating candidate choice. Indeed from 2018, a number of candidates who were offered a place did not choose our programme because we would not compromise on assessment standards nor coddle. As such, the remaining places were subsequently offered to degree holders, IB5 and GCE A-level6 candidates, in order to fulfil the government mandated manpower-planned quota.

Fundamentally, demographics have been a major headwind. Hong Kong’s overall eligible JUPAS candidate pool has shrunk by some 40% in the past decade. In parallel, the total number of manpower-planned medical undergraduate places has increased by more than one-quarter. Therefore, medical programmes have become considerably less selective; to be precise, it is more than twice as easy to gain a place into medical school in 2021 compared to the beginning of the “3+3+4” era in 2012/13.

During the past decade between the two local medical schools, fewer than two-thirds of first-year intakes have been from the JUPAS pool. In other words, whether the split is 50% vs 70% HKU vs CUHK like in the past few years, or 70% vs 50% like in earlier periods, there are only so many JUPAS candidates who are deemed qualified for medical studies by both schools overall. The introduction of the Medical Registration (Amendment) Bill 2021, which opens the door for those who graduate from 100 pre-approved non-local medical schools to practise medicine in Hong Kong without the need to sit local licensing examinations, is likely to pose further uncertainty to admissions uptake at the two local medical schools in future. The competition for the same pool of candidates will shift from essentially between two schools to 102 schools. Furthermore, the government manpower-planned quota will increase from the current 530 to 590 for the 2022-5 intakes, thus making the medical programmes even less selective than currently. These two fundamental policy changes will almost certainly impact medical student admissions from next year onwards, likely further reducing the proportion admitted through the JUPAS route.

Having made the diagnosis, what is the solution?

Should we lower admission standards that would inevitably lead to higher failure rates? We have witnessed a disproportionate number of students who came in just above the admission threshold struggle through the first- and second-year summative examinations, as well as fall victim to maintaining mental and emotional wellness. Or perhaps we could lower the normative standards in our largely self-regulated curriculum, although that would be shirking our dual responsibility as a guarantor of quality doctors for the future.

On another front, we could preferentially admit less qualified applicants on grounds of redressing intergenerational disadvantages, and then provide extra remedial help to get them through the curriculum. How would one operationalise this though – by using the JUPAS route as a proxy to mark out the unfairly disadvantaged? If so, would this be consistent with government policy dating from the first SAR Administration that proactively encouraged a diversity of school types, for instance by introducing the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) that has now accumulated 24 newly established and 35 government-aided/private independent schools which have switched over to the DSS. Most of these schools, in addition to the international schools, offer in whole or in part non-DSE programmes of study thus their students apply through the non-JUPAS route.

Besides, any deliberately biased admission policy, however well intentioned and justified, has been tried for half a century in the US. “Affirmative action” purports to correct a legacy of discrimination against applicants of colour. It has indeed broadened opportunity generally but has largely failed in its mission. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of African-American students admitted to the top 100 most selective American campuses has fallen by 60%, according to the non-profit Education Trust.7 In part, the policy has failed because its legal basis had been shaky from the outset, as reflected by the extreme heterogeneity of views expressed through six different judicial opinions in a 5:4 Supreme Court vote in the landmark case Regents of University of California v. Bakke in 1978. The US Supreme Court may soon hear another case – Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. It is a lawsuit about discrimination against Asian-American applicants in Harvard’s student admissions process. Many have come to believe this case could be the final coda of affirmative action in university admissions in America.

So, like all vexed problems, there are no easy answers. But one thing is for certain: reducing this complex social problem by executive fiat that is thinly veiled real politik would be wrong and unfair for all.

HKUMed will continue offering 75% of our total quota to JUPAS candidates. We will also reflect more deeply what undergraduate medical education by 2050 should become, thus how we go about it in a better way that is fit for purpose and with student wellbeing at its centre. We will not carve out an elitist subprogramme and pre-label a small minority of high school leavers as destined to become medical leaders. Because in effect, that would condemn the majority of medical students to belonging to a future working class of doctors subsumed from the outset of their medical journey simply because they score a couple of points lower on their DSE examinations. Hong Kong already suffers from extreme inequalities, we must not add to it. A university education is supposed to bring intergenerational mobility, not restrict opportunities based on birth and breeding. President Xi Jinping’s clarion call for “common prosperity” should be our guide to resolving this conundrum.

University admissions is a symptom, not a cause. As the father of modern pathology and social progressive Rudolf Virchow, whose birth bicentenary we just celebrated last month, once said:

Medicine as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution; the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution.


New opportunities for a new era

Three important new developments will fundamentally change the future health and health care landscape of Hong Kong. They are the establishment of the Hong Kong Genome Institute, the development of the Hong Kong Academy of Nursing and its constituent colleges coupled with recently reformed nursing career pathways at the Hospital Authority, and the soon-to-be commissioned Chinese Medicine Hospital. In response, we are strategically rolling out complementary human capital training opportunities. Respectively, we will be launching a refreshed bachelor’s in bioinformatics next September to produce the necessary analytic minds who will go on to decode the peta bytes of multi-omics data coming out from the Hong Kong Genome Institute. We have also admitted our first intake of BNurs students on the advanced leadership track, that is targeted at those who aspire to become specialist nurse consultants or even articulate into a double degree programme with MBBS. Based on the success in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise in which our School of Chinese Medicine was ranked top out of the three local schools for the first time, we are redoubling our efforts in preparing the next generation of clinician-scientists in Chinese medicine under the leadership of the incoming Director.


Building dreams, realising possibilities

Finally, please allow me the opportunity to give thanks. HKUMed has for the first time in our 135-year history been recognised as one of the top 20 medical schools in the world, according to the latest authoritative Times Higher Education ranking. This would not have been possible without the collective dedication and hard work of our students, alumni, faculty colleagues, researchers, teachers, professional and administrative staff, and indeed all those who have come before us. Your alma mater owes each and every one of you a heartfelt “thank you”. Today's HKUMed has been able to aim a little higher and reached a little further because we stand on the shoulders of giants who have blazed the way – from Sun Yat-sen to the latest laureates of “China's Nobel” the Future Science Prize.

This Congregation marks the official start of our 135th anniversary celebrations. They will be bookended by this and the next Congregation in the summer of 2022. I will be hosting four Dean’s 135th Anniversary Lectures by national and global luminaries throughout the year. We will also be commissioning a series of permanent art exhibits to celebrate our most important achievements, for each School and Department. Publicly displayed succession rolls honouring all current and former emeritus and chair professors, heads of departments, faculty board chairmen and deans will be installed in prominent locations around campus. We will organise heritage walking tours of the Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail and the Sassoon Road campus for alumni and members of the public to learn more about our history and works. The HKU Medical Alumni Association will be organising a football tournament and our Student Wellness Team will be hosting “HKUMed Games” and e-sporting events. COVID-19 has taught us how to work virtually, so we will also celebrate through an enhanced social media presence. There will of course be the obligatory HKUMed-branded mementoes and paraphernalia for you to purchase as gifts.

First in Hong Kong and amongst the top 3 in Asia and top 20 in the world on our 135th birthday. Bravi friends and colleagues – well done! With our rich heritage and present achievements, we must strive onwards and upwards ever more, ultimately for our patients, our communities and humanity.


  1. According to Google Scholar. Data retrieved 7 November 2021.
  2. Diploma of Secondary Education
  3. Joint University Programmes Admissions System
  4. Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
  5. International Baccalaureate
  6. General Certificate of Education Advanced Level


2020-21 Honour Roll


Professional Recognition and Honours/Awards (Teams)


  • The following research teams were awarded Medals at the 2021 Inventions Geneva Evaluation Days in March 2021:
    • The team led by Professor Chen Honglin, Dr Wang Pui, Professor Chen Zhiwei and Professor Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology) was awarded the Gold Medal with Congratulations of the Jury for the project “Flu-based COVID-19 vaccine”.
    • The team led by Professor Zhang Tong, Dr Deng Yu, Miss Zheng Xiawan, Miss Xu Xiaoqing (Civil Engineering), Professor Leo Poon Lit-man, Dr Hein M Tun, Professor Gabriel Leung and Professor Malik Peiris (Public Health) was awarded the Gold Medal for their invention “Innovative sewage testing tool for SARS-CoV-2”.
    • The team comprising Professor Frankie Leung Ka-li, Dr Qi Weichen and Dr Feng Xiaoreng (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) was awarded the Silver Medal for “Universal fracture healing accelerator for external fixators”.
  • The team jointly led by Dr Hu Yong (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) and Dr Wan Feng (Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Macau) received a total of eight awards in the 2020 World Robot Conference Contests (WRCC) – BCI Brain-Controlled Robot Contest, including one General Award, two First Prizes at the Final Technical Contest, four Champion Prizes at the Championship Contest, and one Significant Contribution Award.
  • The team comprising Dr Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, Dr Kok Kin-hang, Dr Zhu Zheng, Dr Chu Hin, Dr Kelvin To Kai-wang, Dr Yuan Shuofeng and Professor Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology) were conferred the 2020 Best Papers Award (First Place) from the Emerging Microbes and Infections journal in February 2021 for the paper “Genomic characterization of the 2019 novel human-pathogenic coronavirus isolated from a patient with atypical pneumonia after visiting Wuhan”.


  • Dr Gao Bo (Biomedical Sciences), in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Peking Union Medical College and Fudan University, was awarded the Youth Award of the 2020 China Medical Science and Technology Awards by the Chinese Medical Association for the project “Genetic and mechanistic studies of congenital skeletal disorders” in March 2021.
  • Professor Paul Tam Kwong-hang and Dr Clara Tang Sze-man (Surgery), in collaboration with Wuhan Union Hospital of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Capital Institute of Pediatrics, and the Second Hospital of Hebei Medical University, were conferred the Second Class Award of the 2020 China Medical Science and Technology Awards for the project "Disease mechanisms and minimal invasive surgery applications for Hirschsprung's disease" by the Chinese Medical Association in March 2021.
  • Professor Xu Aimin (Medicine) and Dr Hui Xiaoyan (Biomedical Sciences, CUHK) were presented the State Science and Technology Progress Award (Second Class Award) for the project “Innovation and Application of Key Technology for Diabetes Immunodiagnosis and Treatment” by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China in 2020.



  • Professor Kenneth Wong Kak-yuen (Surgery) and his team received the HKWC and QMH/TYH Outstanding Team Award (Paediatric Thoracoscopic Team) from the Hong Kong West Cluster, Hospital Authority in March 2021.


  • Professor Keiji Fukuda (Public Health) and his team comprising Ms Bernadette Tsui Wing-suen (Development and Alumni Affairs Office), Professor Chan Yuen-ying (Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative) and Mr Laurence Tang Yat-long (Development and Alumni Affairs Office) received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award in September 2020 for the project “Combating COVID-19 through knowledge exchange”.
  • Dr John Fung Tai-chun and his team comprising Dr Veronica Lam Suk-fun, Ms Michelle Pang Tsz-ha and Dr Janet Wong Yuen-ha (Nursing) were presented the HKU 2020 Teaching Innovation Award for the project “Evaluation on students’ clinical competence after a virtual simulation education programme during COVID-19 pandemic” in March 2021.


Professional Recognition and Honours/Awards (Individuals)


  • Professor Roberto Bruzzone (Public Health) was awarded Officer in the French National Order of Merit (Officier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite) in June 2021.
  • Dr Linda Chan (Family Medicine and Primary Care) was conferred Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians in 2020.
  • Professor Kathryn Cheah Song-eng (Biomedical Sciences) received the British Society for Matrix Biology (BSMB) Medal Lecture Award in 2021.
  • Professor Kenneth Cheung Man-chee (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) was presented the Walter P Blount Humanitarian Award in September 2021.
  • Dr Jason Cheung Pui-Yin (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) received the 21st Asia Pacific Orthopaedic Association Spine Section Award in July 2021.
  • Dr Michael Cheung Ka-shing (Medicine) was conferred the National Scholar Award in the UEG Week Virtual by the United European Gastroenterology in July 2021.
  • Professor Benjamin John Cowling (Public Health) was awarded Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
  • Professor Guan Yi and Professor Malik Peiris (Public Health) were bestowed the 2021 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award.
  • Dr Jojo Kwok Yan-yan (Nursing) received the Outstanding New Investigator Award at the International Congress of Behavioral Medicine in June 2021.
  • Dr Jenny Lam Ka-wing (Pharmacology and Pharmacy) was presented the DDL (Drug Delivery to the Lungs) Emerging Scientist Award by The Aerosol Society in December 2020.
  • Professor Karen Lam Siu-ling (Medicine) was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Endocrine Society for a three-year term starting from 2022.
  • Professor Lam Wai-ching (Ophthalmology) was conferred Fellow of the American Society of Retina Specialists (FASRS) by the American Society of Retina Specialists in July 2021.
  • Dr Wendy Lam Wing-tak (Public Health) was appointed as Vice-President of International Psycho-Oncology Society (2021-2023) in June 2021.
  • Professor Simon Law Ying-kit (Surgery) was elected as President-Elect of the International Society of Diseases of the Esophagus (2021-2022).
  • Professor Gabriel Leung (Public Health) was appointed to the Wellcome Trust Board of Governors in May 2021.
  • Dr Loey Mak Lung-yi (Medicine) received the Young Investigator’s Award at the 30th Annual Conference of the Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver (APASL) in February 2021.
  • Professor Nancy Man Kwan (Surgery) was presented the Rising Star Award (Mentor) at the Virtual International Liver Transplantation Society Annual Congress in May 2021.
  • Professor Lo Chung-mau (Surgery) was conferred Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in February 2021.
  • Dr Ng Lui (Surgery) received the Young Investigator Award at the 13th Annual Meeting of the Korean Society of Medical Oncology and 2020 International Conference (Virtual) in September 2020; the Virtual Foreign Contributor Award at the Japanese Society of Medical Oncology Annual Meeting (Virtual) in February 2021; and the Young Investigator Award at the 4th International Meeting on Intestinal Diseases in conjunction with the Annual Congress of the Korean Association for the Study of Intestinal Diseases (Virtual) in April 2021.
  • Dr Ng Ming-yen (Diagnostic Radiology) was selected for the Future Leaders Programme by the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography in March 2021.
  • Professor Hextan Ngan Yuen-sheung (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) was presented the IGCS Excellence in Teaching Award by the International Gynecologic Cancer Society in September 2021.
  • Professor Walter Seto Wai-kay (Medicine) was admitted as Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association in February 2021.
  • Dr Kendrick Co Shih (Ophthalmology) was conferred the Academic Development Mentorship Scheme Award by the Academy of Asia-Pacific Professors of Ophthalmology (AAPPO) in December 2020; and the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Best Young Ophthalmologist Influencer Award at the 36th Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress in September 2021.
  • Professor Paul Tam Kwong-hang (Surgery) was awarded the Rehbein Medal (2020) at the 22nd Greece European Paediatric Surgeons’ Association Congress in Athens, Greece, in September 2021.
  • Dr Wang Weiping (Pharmacology and Pharmacy) was conferred the Thieme Chemistry Journals Award in January 2021.
  • Mr Henry Yau (Clinical Trials Centre) was appointed Chairperson of the International Clinical Trials Center Network in September 2020.
  • Dr Yiu Kai-hang (Medicine) received the 23rd Annual Quality Improvement Award (Global Quality Improvement Category) from the Australian Council on Healthcare Standard in December 2020.


  • The following Faculty members were awarded the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Excellent Young Scientists Fund (Hong Kong and Macau): 
    • September 2020
      • Dr Esther Chan Wai-yin (Pharmacology and Pharmacy)
      • Dr Lydia Cheung Wai-ting (Biomedical Sciences)
      • Dr Carmen Wong Chak-lui (Pathology)
      • Dr Alan Wong Siu-lun (Biomedical Sciences)
    • September 2021 
      • Dr Chu Hin (Microbiology)
  • Professor Kenneth Cheung Man-chee (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) has introduced a medical device for correcting severe spinal deformities in children in the Greater Bay Area under the 港澳藥械通 scheme in May 2021.
  • Professor Anne Lee Wing-mui (Clinical Oncology) was bestowed the First Prize of Technology Award by the China Anti-Cancer Association in 2021.
  • Professor Lo Chung-mau (Surgery) was selected in 2020 by the Health Times of People’s Daily for the 4th Doctors of Distinction in China Award.
  • Professor Malik Peiris (Public Health) and Professor Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology) were awarded the Future Science Prize in life sciences in September 2021.
  • Professor Walter Seto Wai-kay (Medicine) was appointed as Chief Physician, Guangdong Province, by the Shenzhen Human Resources and Social Security Bureau in May 2021.
  • Dr William Wong Chi-Wai (Family Medicine and Primary Care) was conferred the title of Chief Senior Consultant by the China Medical Board in 2021.



  • Professor Keiji Fukuda, Professor Gabriel Leung (Public Health), and Professor Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology) were appointed to the Hong Kong SAR government’s expert advisory group on COVID-19 by the Chief Executive of HKSAR.
  • Professor Wallace Lau Chak-sing (Medicine) was appointed Convenor of the Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Vaccines by the Chief Executive of HKSAR, and the following Faculty members were appointed as members of the panel:
    • Professor Keiji Fukuda (Public Health)
    • Professor Lau Yu-lung (Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine)
    • Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai (Medicine)
    • Professor Gabriel Leung (Public Health)
    • Professor Ian Wong Chi-kei (Pharmacology and Pharmacy)
    • Professor Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology)
  • The following Faculty members received awards from the Croucher Foundation: 
    • Professor Huang Jiandong (Biomedical Sciences) was awarded the Croucher Senior Research Fellowship 2021 in December 2020.
    • Professor Richard Yuen Man-fung (Medicine) was awarded the Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship 2021 in December 2020.
    • Dr Loey Mak Lung-yi (Medicine) was awarded the Croucher Foundation Fellowship in March 2021.
  • The following Faculty members were presented the Hong Kong Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) Awards by the Junior Chamber International Hong Kong in October 2020 and 2021: 
    • Dr Winnie Tso Wan-yee (Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) – TOYP 2020
    • Dr Lam Ka-on (Clinical Oncology) – TOYP 2021 
  • The following Faculty members received awards at the 40th Annual Congress of the Hong Kong Orthopaedic Association (HKOA) in November 2020:
    • Dr Prudence Cheung Wing-hang (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) – Best Poster Award
    • Dr Janus Wong Siu-him (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) – Best Paper Award for Trainee Member and Prof SP Chow Award for Best Paper in Trauma
  • Dr Esther Chan Wai-yin (Pharmacology and Pharmacy) was elected as member of the Hong Kong Young Academy of Sciences in September 2021.
  • Dr Michael Cheung Ka-shing (Medicine) was presented the Distinguished Research Paper Award for Young Investigator by Hong Kong College of Physicians in 2021.
  • Professor Benjamin John Cowling (Public Health) was conferred Research Grants Council (RGC)’s Inaugural Senior Research Fellow in November 2020.
  • Dr Patrick Ip (Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) received the Hong Kong Humanity Award in November 2020, jointly organized by the Hong Kong Red Cross and Radio Television Hong Kong.
  • Dr Jojo Kwok Yan-yan (Nursing) was awarded the Sigma Theta Tau Pi Iota Chapter Scholarship by The Sigma Theta Tau International Pi Iota Chapter in December 2020.
  • Dr Agnes Lai Yuen-kwan (Nursing) received the People’s Choice e-Poster Award at the 10th Hong Kong International Nursing Forum cum 3rd Sigma Asia Region Conference in December 2020.
  • Professor Cindy Lam Lo-kuen (Family Medicine and Primary Care) was appointed as Convenor of the Advisory Committee on Primary Care Directory (2021–2024) by the Food and Health Bureau, Government of the HKSAR.
  • Professor Wallace Lau Chak-sing (Medicine) was appointed as the non-official Director of the Board of Directors and a non-official member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Hong Kong Genome Institute by the HKSAR Government.
  • Dr Pamela Lee Pui-wah (Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) was awarded the Rosie Young 90 Medal for Outstanding Young Woman Scholar in June 2021.
  • Professor Gilberto Leung Ka-kit (Surgery) was elected President of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine in January 2021.
  • Dr Philip Li Hei (Medicine) obtained the “Highest Score in Advanced Internal Medicine” of the Hong Kong College of Physicians in October 2020.
  • Dr Stephanie Ma Kwai-yee (Biomedical Sciences) was conferred RGC Research Fellow 2021/22.
  • Dr Henry Mak Ka-fung (Diagnostic Radiology) was awarded the Best Poster Presentation by the Hong Kong College of Radiologists in November 2020.
  • Dr Loey Mak Lung-yi (Medicine) and Dr Tiffany Wong Cho-lam (Surgery) were conferred the Lo Ying Shek Chi Wai Foundation Award for Young Investigator (2020 – 2021).
  • Dr Loey Mak Lung-yi (Medicine) received the Distinguished Research Paper Award for Young Investigators 2020 from the Hong Kong College of Physicians in September 2020.
  • Professor Tse Hung-fat (Medicine) was awarded the Li Shu Pui Medical Foundation Fellowship (2021).
  • Dr Emily Tse Tsui-yee (Family Medicine and Primary Care) received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Free Paper Competition of the Hong Kong Primary Care Conference in September 2020.
  • Dr Janus Wong Siu-him (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) was awarded the Silver Medal for the Best Original Research by Trainees by the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine in December 2020.


  • The following Faculty members received HKU excellence awards in November 2020: 
    • Dr Janice M Johnston (Public Health) – University Distinguished Teaching Award
    • Dr Edmond Choi Pui-hang (Nursing) – Early Career Teaching Award 
    • Dr Anderson Tsang Chun-On (Surgery) – Teaching Innovation Award
  • The following Faculty members were awarded Faculty Teaching Medals by HKUMed in December 2020: 
    • Dr Edmond Choi Pui-hang (Nursing)  
    • Dr Janice Mary Johnston (Public Health) 
    • Ms Eliza Tam Yuen-ting (Pharmacology and Pharmacy)
    • Dr Anderson Tsang Chun-on (Surgery)  
  • The following Faculty members were conferred Faculty Outstanding Research Output Awards (2021) by HKUMed:
    • Professor Benjamin John Cowling (Public Health)
    • Dr Ruby Hoo Lai-chong (Pharmacology and Pharmacy)
    • Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai (Medicine)
    • Dr Kathy Leung Sze-man (Public Health)
    • Dr Vincent Lui Chi-hang (Surgery)
    • Dr Loey Mak Lung-yi (Medicine)
    • Professor Irene Ng Oi-lin (Pathology)
    • Dr Michael Ni Yuxuan (Public Health)
    • Dr Kelvin To Kai-wang (Microbiology)
    • Professor Ian Wong Chi-kei (Pharmacology and Pharmacy)
    • Professor Joseph Wu Tsz-kei (Public Health)
    • Dr Helen Yan Hoi-ning (Pathology)
    • Dr Thomas Yau Chung-cheung (Medicine)
  • Dr Kris Lok Yuet-wan (Nursing) was presented the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2021 by HKUMed for the project “Baby-Friendly Community Initiative Program – Development of a New Breastfeeding GPS App”.


Major Research Support


  • Professor Chen Honglin (Microbiology) was granted US$5.51M in a partnering agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to evaluate a nasal spray COVID-19 vaccine made with live attenuated influenza viral vector, as part of a collaboration extension to rapidly develop a vaccine candidate against COVID-19.


  • The following Faculty members have been granted a total of HK$167.235M under the Theme-based Research Scheme 2021/22 of the Research Grants Council:
    • Professor Jin Dong-yan (Biomedical Sciences) and his team
      Project: Ecology, molecular virology and pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2: From bedside to bench and back (HK$42.278M)
    • Dr Vincent Lui Chi-hang (Surgery) and his team
      Project:Translating disease-mechanism discoveries to improve treatment of biliary atresia, an intractable newborn liver disease (HK$56.127M)
    • Professor Leo Poon Lit-man (Public Health) and his team
      Project: Virological, immunological and epidemiological characterization of COVID-19 (HK$68.83M)
  • The following Faculty members have been granted a total of $91.02M for commissioned research projects on Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) under the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) by Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government:
    • Professor Benjamin John Cowling (Public Health)
      Project: Comprehensive assessment of longitudinal vaccine-induced immune responses, safety and potential effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines (HK$44.99M)
    • Dr Philip Li Hei (Medicine)
      Project: HKU optimizing protection and effectiveness (HOPE) of COVID19 Vaccines (HK$12.51M)
    • Professor Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology) with Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, Dr Michael Cheung Ka-shing, Dr Lee Chi-ho (Medicine), Professor Chen Honglin, Professor Chen Zhiwei, Dr Kelvin To Kai-wang, Dr Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, Dr Chu Hin, Dr Richard Kao Yi-tsun, Dr Kok Kin-hang, Dr Siddharth Sridhar, Dr Yeung Man-lung, Dr Yuan Shuofeng, Dr Zhao Hanjun, Dr Zhou jie (Microbiology) and Professor Huang Jian-dong (Biomedical Sciences)
      Project: Preparing for COVID-19 upcoming challenges by clinical and virological investigations (HK$33.52M)
  • Two Faculty members received support of HK$56M in total for Commissioned Research on Control of Infectious Diseases (Phase IV) under the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) by Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government, in October 2020:
    • Professor Benjamin John Cowling (Public Health)
      Project: Control of emerging, epidemic and endemic infectious diseases (HK$28M)
    • Professor Yuen Kwok-yung (Microbiology)
      Project: Research for the control of emerging or important acute microbial infections with public health threat to HKSAR (HK$28M)
  • Six Faculty members were granted a total of HK$56.96M on Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Studies by Food and Health Bureau, HKSAR Government:
    • Professor Benjamin John Cowling (Public Health)
      Project: Randomized trial of COVID-19 booster vaccinations (Cobovax trial) (HK$7.63M)
    • Professor Cindy Lam Lo-kuen (Family Medicine and Primary Care)
      Project: The Long-term spill-over impact of COVID-19 on health and healthcare of patients with non-communicable diseases: an in-depth outcome and health economic evaluation (HK$9.33M)
    • Professor Lau Yu-lung (Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine)
      Project: To compare the reactogenicity and immunogenicity of the 3 recommended COVID-19 vaccines in young adolescents in Hong Kong (HK$10M)
    • Dr Kathy Leung Sze-man (Public Health)
      Project: Quantifying the impact of different public health and social measures on population mixing vis-à-vis contact matrices in Hong Kong (HK$9.99M)
    • Dr Michael Ni Yuxuan (Public Health)
      Project: Psychobehavioural responses to COVID-19 and vaccine confidence in Hong Kong (HK$10M)
    • Professor Ian Wong Chi-kei (Pharmacology and Pharmacy)
      Project: COVID-19 vaccines Adverse events Response and Evaluation (CARE) Programme (HK$10M)
  • The following Faculty members have been granted a total of HK$61.02M from the RGC One-off Collaborative Research Fund COVID-19 and Novel Infectious Diseases Research Exercises (2020-2021):
    • Professor Chen Zhiwei (Microbiology)
      Project: Mechanism of immune control against COVID-19 (HK$8.63M)
    • Professor Benjamin John Cowling (Public Health)
      Project: Superspreading of COVID19: epidemiology and control (HK$8.98M)
    • Dr Patrick Ip (Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine)
      Project: Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Hong Kong children and support to families during crisis (HK$6.93M)
    • Professor Jin Dong-yan (Biomedical Sciences)
      Project: Mechanism of inflammasome activation by SARS-CoV-2 (HK$8.43M)
    • Dr Lam Tsan-yuk (Public Health)
      Project: Role of pangolins in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses in humans (HK$5.79M)
    • Professor Leo Poon Lit-man (Public Health)
      Project: Replication-defective SARS-CoV-2 mutant vaccines with abnormal codon usages (HK$6.98M)
    • Professor Paul Tam Kwong-hang (Surgery)
      Project: Comparison of paediatric and adult responses to coronavirus infection - a molecular, cellular and tissue study (HK$5.59M)
    • Professor Ian Wong Chi-kei (Pharmacology and Pharmacy)
      Project: A multinational big data COVID-19 epidemiological study on post-infection outcomes (ACESO) (HK$9.69M)
  • Two Faculty members were awarded a total of HK$36.34M by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust:
    • Professor Doris Yu Sau-fung (Nursing)
      Project: Jockey Club Pathway to Healthy Aging: A capacity building project to increase the preparedness of the society for the WHO Decade of Healthy Aging (HK$13.97M)
    • Professor Eric Chen Yu-hai (Psychiatry)
      Project: Jockey Club Mental Wellness Project for Women Phase II (HK$22.37M)
  • The following Faculty members have been granted a total of HK$13.57M from the RGC Research Impact Fund (2020-2021):
    • Dr Stephanie Ma Kwai-yee (Biomedical Sciences)
      Project: Development and applications of a driver-dependent tumor organoid biobank for translational liver cancer research (HK$4.1M)
    • Dr Parco Siu Ming-fai (Public Health)
      Project: Combating physical inactivity pandemic by promoting physical fitness education and physical activity-embedded curriculum in kindergartens (HK$9.47M)
  • Professor Anne Lee Wing-mui, Dr Victor Lee Ho-fun (Clinical Oncology), Professor Ian Wong Chi-kei and Dr Cheung Ching-lung (Pharmacology and Pharmacy) have been granted HK$50.01M under the Partnership Research Programme of the Information Technology Commission for the project “Precision oncology programme for non-small-cell-lung cancer”.


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