Dean's Speech: After Dinner Remarks delivered by Professor Gabriel Leung at the 2017 Li Shu Fan Oration given by Mrs Carrie Lam, Chief Executive-elect

06 May 2017

CE-elect, (Dr) Walton (Li), (Mr) Wyman (Li), (Dr) Tsao (Yen Chow), distinguished members of the Li Shu Fan and Li Shu Pui Foundations, fellow colleagues of the medical fraternity, dear guests, ladies and gentlemen,

When the invitation came last year to deliver this year’s Li Shu Fan Oration, on the occasion of the Medical Faculty’s 130th anniversary celebrations, I immediately accepted not on the basis that I would be a fitting orator for this grandest of lectures, nor out of vanity, but as temporary guardian and representative of the SAR’s longest established tertiary institute of learning, by a quarter of a century no less. Since then I had been fretting about what I might sensibly say to such an august gathering of Hong Kong’s cognoscenti. So I was much relieved when I learned that tonight’s guest of honour, our incoming Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam, who at the time was Chief Secretary planning to deliver her swansong to the medical community, had agreed to give the oration this year instead, I immediately bowed out in deference, and secretly in glee – I found my reprieve! Although I have been given a deferred sentence for another year, as have you the audience, instead you would still have to put up with me for the next five minutes so that I may repay my debt for the sumptuous feast we have all just enjoyed, ie speak for my dinner!

First, allow me a word on our honoured guest and my Chancellor-to-be. Earlier when asked about his views on the Chief Executive election, our Faculty’s eponymous donor offered the most apt analogy “女媧補天” (“Nuwa mending the heavens”) – the ancient folklore about the epic battle between the water god (水神共工氏) and the fire god (火神祝融氏) at Buzhou Mountain (不周山) and how the goddess and maker of humankind smelted together five-coloured stones to patch up the skies that had been violently torn apart by the ill-tempered loser, the water god.

But how does this well-told tale relate to Hong Kong’s health system, about which CE-elect spoke at length before supper? Over the years, the system of which we have always been justifiably proud has been eroding, our competitive advantage has sadly been ebbing away, just like the rest of Hong Kong. A lot of it can be chalked up to a series of own goals, where the uncompromising polar positions have progressively ripped apart, sometimes even shredded in the heat of various professional and political battles. As if it were some consolation, this polarity rather pervades the times in which we live, and finds echoes in places as far flung as the UK, France, Turkey, US etc.

Therefore, just as we anticipate Hong Kong’s very own elected NUWA, with a capital “N”, to bridge the gaping divide in society, I submit that we all have a bit of a small “n” nuwa in us. Let us join hands to bring together the private and public sectors, the young and the experienced, the generalists and the specialists, the not-for-profit and the commercial, the local and the overseas trained, western and Chinese medicine practitioners, registered and enrolled nurses, ophthalmologists and optometrists, the orthopods and neurosurgeons who operate on the spine, and last but not least HKU and Chinese U. A little goodwill from each of us every day is very much easier and more affordable than major concessions demanded of either side at trying times of sudden death shoot-outs.

As health care workers, we understand the complications of non-union or malunion of a fracture only too well. Timing is also of the essence, for a wound left open too long should not be sutured back together, rather it must be left open for healing by secondary intention. During this frustratingly protracted process, one must take care to debride the wound appropriately while avoiding further tissue damage if debridement becomes too rough. Healing the allegorical tears I rhymed off earlier is no less delicate a task.

Writ large, disharmony in society lead to instability and we are all reminded what could happen by recalling the historical watershed sparked off in a plastic flower factory in San Po Kong exactly 50 years ago today.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is therefore in the true spirit of reconciliation, of unity and of collaboration that we are celebrating 130 years since the first introduction of western medicine to Hong Kong. It is a yearlong party in the noblest and happiest sense of the word. It is a party that brings people together. It is a party that belongs to the Nethersole Foundation under whose roof our forebear the College of Medicine for Chinese started life in four subdivided rooms. It is a party celebrating 95 glorious years of the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital and of Tsan Yuk Hospital. It is a party for Queen Mary’s 80th and Grantham’s 60th birthday. And it is a party to mark the early developmental milestones of the five-year-old HKU-Shenzhen Hospital and Gleneagles Hong Kong’s recent birth.

Finally, surely it would be incomplete of any society dinner without a bit of tittle-tattle. Hardly a meal gathering has gone by recently without someone at the table speculating on the identities of the incoming cabinet – and I don’t mean Dr Helen Chan’s sister or Dr Tse Tak Fu’s sister-in-law. Try the following thought. Now if Mrs Lam is the big “N” NUWA, and each of us a small “n” nuwa, would the minister to be responsible for our portfolio then be a middle “n” Nuwa and share the same gender and “love of knowledge” of the ancient goddess?  

I have spoken too long and you have been incredibly good natured and indulgent. Good night and see you at the next 130th anniversary event!