Dean's Speech: State of Faculty Address 2016

04 December 2016

Mr (Jasper) Tsang (Yok Sing)/Professor (Iain) McInnes/Professor (Linda) Sarna, Provost, colleagues, graduands, parents, fellow alumni, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

2016 marks a double anniversary for the Faculty. Earlier in October, we kicked off our 130th anniversary celebrations. Last month, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Dr Sun Yat-sen’s birth, we witnessed a whole series of commemorative activities, from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to across the Straits, in our own Central Library and indeed around the world. In fact, our students file past his statue every morning on their way into the lecture theatres. Sun was of course one of two students in our first graduating class of medical licentiates in 1892. Here today we celebrate the success of our 2016 graduating class of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, Chinese medicine practitioners, biomedical scientists and public health practitioners.

From being the third medical school established in the country in 1887 to being consistently ranked as one of the top three medical faculties in Asia today according to both the Times Higher Education Supplement and the QS[1] league tables, we have come a long way. What has not and will not change are our cardinal values of wisdom, compassion and commitment. We shall remain steadfast to and be guided by our heritage.

While our 130 years of history make us proud, we must not relish our achievements for too long, rather constantly look forward to and strive towards even better days ahead. Our 130th anniversary logo reflects the forward momentum of this spirit of innovation.

Last year at this occasion I undertook to pursue a proactive, detail-oriented transactional strategy thus realising the transformation envisioned in my second State-of-the-Faculty Address, having spent my first year in office listening to and consulting with all stakeholders then agreeing on common causes. So my present, fourth State-of-the-Faculty Address reports progress on implementation on the various goals and objectives. Taking into account the many useful recommendations of the recently completed Faculty Review, I lay before you our strategic response which will be presented to the University Council at its upcoming sitting.  

Perhaps I should first give some background to the Faculty Review process. Each of the University’s ten faculties is to undergo periodic academic review, usually every five years, by a panel composed of external experts and internal colleagues from cognate disciplines. In our case this time, through the personal intervention of the Provost who is in the Chair today, we were fortunate to have particularly benefitted from the experience of Dr Edward Miller, former Dean of Johns Hopkins University Medical School and Professor Sir John Savill, Dean of Medicine at Edinburgh who also chairs the UK Medical Research Council.

Now empowered by the mandate of this authoritative review, it being our second such exercise when the first was in 2003, we are ready to map out the next phase of our continuing development, if not for the next 130 years at least for the next five to ten. Let me emphasise that we are planning ahead on a very strong foundation and from a position of immense depth and strength. Nevertheless it is a base that can be quickly eroded if we are not careful, deliberate and nimble on our feet.

Learners, parents and teachers,

Teaching and learning

We continue to admit the absolute highest-scoring school leavers and graduate entrants to our flagship MBBS programme. Notwithstanding the keen effort of our sister institution offering a worthy and compelling alternative, and while adhering to our self-imposed, equity-driven 75% JUPAS floor quota compared to less than 60% over the other side of the Lion Rock, our lead has remained very solid, at a quantum of two “stars” in DSE[2] terms. Admittedly however, the overall results dropped by one star across the board for the entire sector given two fundamental shifts – firstly, an increase of 100 more places or by 27% in the last five years, and in the past year alone 50 or 12% more places; secondly, a marked reduction in the eligible pool of applicants, from around 65,000 five years ago to just over 53,000 currently or in relative terms by one-fifth, given prevailing fertility rates 18 years previously. In fact, the JUPAS[3] applicant pool is projected to shrink further while the government-mandated MBBS admission quota remains at an all-time high of 235 places at each of the two medical schools. This trend is set to persist for quite a few more years until the fertility trends from two decades ago reversed.

Having also taken into consideration five years of feedback from high school principals, students and parents on the DSE curriculum structure, particularly regarding the examination format of the core Chinese subject paper and that for Liberal Studies, as well as empirical subject choice behaviour in the Mathematics Extended Modules vis-à-vis the future need for advanced computational competencies amongst doctors and life scientists, we will be refining our JUPAS admission criteria this year. Specifically, effective with the 2017 intake, we will base our summary score calculation on the best six subjects, as opposed to the old “4 core + 2 electives” formula, although the basic subject requirements and minimum threshold grades will remain unchanged. Further, beginning with the 2018 intake, for candidates who take the M1 or M2 papers and should mathematics be one of the best six subjects, we will count the core mathematics score or the average of the core plus M1 or M2 score, whichever is higher, in our summary calculation.

To emphasise that we very much look beyond just grades in the admission process, we will be further systematising our admission interview as per the “multiple mini interview” or MMI format. A series of standardised interview stations focusing on four key domains of critical thinking, communication competencies, ethical decision-making, and reflective thinking about topical health and broader societal issues. We will be looking for non-cognitive qualities such as collegiality, discretion, empathy, maturity, reliability and sensitivity.

Let me now report further good news about admissions in the other undergraduate programmes offered under our auspices. For the first time, our BPharm programme edged past its much longer established counterpart to claim the top spot. BBiomedSc has continued to attract the highest-scoring candidates despite the addition of a similar new programme offered by our sister school. The BSc (Exercise and Health) programme offered by the erstwhile Institute for Health Performance under the Faculty of Education, now part of our School of Public Health, made very good improvement and shifted the entire DSE score distribution by a considerable margin to the right from previous years, thus topping the score chart in its category albeit with a small intake. The BNurs and BChinMed programmes came second (out of three) in their respective categories, signalling that still more hard work remains.

With our 130th intake since 1887, that is the present freshman class, we launched the 130th anniversary MBBS curriculum featuring an “enrichment year” during their third year of study. We have made this major revamp to the twenty-year-old curriculum, based on the feedback of the Medical Council’s 2013 accreditation visit, a full four-year cycle experience with the University’s Common Core Curriculum and the just completed Faculty Review. This now affords each and every student a tailored experiential or dual degree opportunity, at once fulfilling the HKU Horizons goal of off-campus mainland and overseas exchange and exposure opportunities, the University’s vision of interdisciplinarity and internationalisation, but above all would in time produce a new generation of wise, compassionate and committed doctors for Hong Kong, China and beyond.

The Medical Council Review mandated an enhanced pre-internship block to be instituted so as to more thoroughly prepare graduating students for housemanship. This follows the global trend of strengthening and lengthening such training, variously structured or branded, ranging from the UK’s now two-year foundation course for what was previously known as pre-registration internship and mainland China’s promulgation of the “5+3” model where universal, basic postgraduate training now spans three years. While I sympathise that this would mean our students would lose most of the few weeks of their post-final MB break before a lifetime of relentless clinical work begins on July 1, it is an inevitability that we must now structure properly and help students cope the best we can. One outstanding issue for the Hospital Authority Central Internship Committee to resolve is how to allow for supervised, graduated responsibility for these new “assistant interns” so that they could make the best of this new requirement and train optimally.

Another programme which will be undergoing major enhancement is the BBiomedSc. We intend to pool the first-year-first-degree quotas of the BBiomedSc and BSc (Exercise and Health) programmes, and consolidate under the BBiomedSc flagship. In parallel, we are proposing for Senate’s consideration, through the Academic Board, to add two new minors to the currently offered “genetics and genomics” stream, namely “biotechnology and clinical research” and “kinesiology”. We are building on the popularity of the exchange cum articulation arrangements with Edinburgh’s veterinary medicine and surgery programme and the successful articulation of four first-class honours BBiomedSc graduates from the inaugural cohort of 18 students into the MBBS programme. This year we added the University of Sydney’s physiotherapy master’s as another option for third-year students to choose. There are ongoing negotiations to add perhaps a couple more relevant professional programmes soon.

For our other four professional undergraduate programmes, we will focus on effecting truly integrated, inter-professional education or IPE, including with the MBBS programme. We have accrued good experience from the joint MBBS/BPharm PBL sessions and the Patient Care Project involving medical, nursing, pharmacy and Chinese medicine students. We are planning to further pilot three new initiatives: (1) inter-professional team-based learning; (2) scenario-based inter-professional simulation training in the newly refurbished and outfitted Suen Chi Sun Clinical Skills Laboratory and Simulation Training Centre; and (3) bedside inter-professional learning at HKU-Shenzhen Hospital and the soon-to-be-commissioned Gleneagles Hong Kong. From a teaching load perspective, this will also have the happy but unintended side effect of reducing the teaching load for staff.

For pedagogical development, the Bau Institute of Medical and Health Sciences Education or BIMHSE held its very well attended annual Frontiers conference on the theme of “assessment” last month. It is an area that is often talked about but fiendishly difficult to focus collective attention on as it requires massive, broad-based support from all examiners across different disciplines spanning every formative and summative examination in the curriculum. Our BIMHSE colleagues will adopt a Sisyphean work ethic to tackle this vexed but critically important issue.

Two further substantive issues which BIMHSE will be considering are, first, how best to improve faculty support and development for our growing corps of honorary teachers, especially in the light of an expanded student base who would increasingly rely on training opportunities afforded outwith our direct hospital affiliates in the broader network of mostly so-called “non-teaching” public hospitals and also some private clinics. Secondly, we are planning in earnest moving towards incorporating student input into the generation and enhancement of teaching materials and processes.

On student life and welfare, we are very much relieved that the Faculty Review panel agreed pastoral provision for students is currently inadequate and recommended that “to remedy the situation, which may be seen as a crisis and will negatively impact the quality of education, the University will need to start the construction of facilities at the Sassoon Road site immediately”, referring to the in situ expansion plan at 21 Sassoon Road we proposed and had already been unanimously approved by both the Accommodations Committee and the Campus Development Policy Committee almost two years ago. I pray that the Senior Management Team and Council, in considering the way forward arising from the Faculty Review in Senate and Council over the next couple of months, will respond to our cri de coeur that has now been independently verified and emphatically echoed by the Panel. 

In software infrastructure terms, to enhance pastoral care, over the coming year the Teaching and Learning team together with the Information Technology team will create a longitudinal tracking system to monitor student wellbeing thereby allowing us to more quickly and systematically spot areas of concerns and to intervene where appropriate.

Finally on teaching and learning, I have just commissioned a comprehensive review of the BChinMed programme, to consider whether and how to ensure the curriculum remains at the frontiers of Chinese medicine pedagogy, relevant to modern needs of patients and society, compatible with Chinese medicine practice locally and nationally, integrative with the other health professional programmes HKU offers, and can take full advantage of the future Chinese medicine hospital at the designated Tseung Kwan O site.

Graduands and colleagues,

Research and discovery

I have always begun this section celebrating major achievements and I will follow tradition as in years past. Please note that the printed proceedings contain a complete list which I will not recite here in the interests of time. Suffice to salute my colleagues for their superlative achievements during the past year and to offer my heartiest congratulations.  

At the departmental level:

  • The Phase 1 Clinical Trials Centre has been officially accredited by the China Food and Drug Administration.
  • The Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology in the Department of Medicine has been designated as an Asia Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology (APLAR) Centre of Excellence.

Regarding individual honours:

  • Professor Lao Lixing (Chinese Medicine) was awarded the Qi-Huang International Award (岐黃國際奬) by the China Association of Chinese Medicine (中華中醫藥學會).
  • Professor Lo Chung Mau (Surgery) was awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.
  • Professor Lu Liwei and Dr Lin Xiang (Pathology) were awarded the Beijing Science and Technology Award by the Beijing City Government.
  • Professor So Kwok Fai (Ophthalmology) was elected to the fellowship of the US National Academy of Inventors.
  • Professors Yuen Kwok Yung (Microbiology), Malik Peiris, Guan Yi and Leo Poon (Public Health) were named to be amongst the “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2015” by Thomson Reuters.

Concerning major research support:

  • The Department of Pathology was awarded, in the same year, the rare distinction of two Theme-based Research Scheme projects coordinated respectively by Professors Irene Ng and Leung Suet Yi, namely “Understanding cancer stemness in liver cancer – from regulation to translational applications” (HK$38M) and “Gastric cancer genomics and beyond – moving from patient samples to 3D organoid cultures for integrative genomics analysis, drug sensitivity assays, cell biological studies and animal models” (HK$36M).
  • Professor Ben Cowling (Public Health) was awarded a US$5M grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in support of a five-year project entitled “Research on the epidemiology, vaccine effectiveness and treatment of influenza and other respiratory viruses in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific”.
  • Dr David Lam and Professor Mary Ip (Medicine) won a HK$10M research donation from Ho Ting Sik & Lee Siu Lun Respiratory Health Research Fund for the project “Circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) as a prognostic tool in patients with advanced lung adenocarcinoma”.
  • Professor Xu Aimin (Pharmacology and Pharmacy; Medicine) was awarded a Croucher Senior Research Fellowship for 2016-7. The 2017-8 winners of the Senior Medical Research Fellowship, Senior Research Fellowship and Innovation Award are respectively Professors Anskar Leung (Medicine), Leo Poon (Public Health) and Dr Carmen Wong (Pathology). 

In terms of professional recognition:

  • Professor Chan Ying Shing (Biomedical Sciences) was appointed founding Editor-in-Chief of IBRO Reports by the International Brain Research Organization.
  • Dr Daniel Fong (Nursing) was elected President of the World Association for Chinese Quality of Life.
  • Professor Lam Tai Hing (Public Health) received the China Tobacco Control Distinguished Service Award (中國控煙突出貢獻獎) from the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control(中國控制吸煙協會).
  • Professor Lau Chak Sing (Medicine) will assume the presidency of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine for a two-year term beginning this month.
  • Professor Lau Yu Lung (Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) was conferred the Outstanding Asian Pediatrician Award by the Asia Pacific Pediatric Association; he was also elected President of the Hong Kong College of Paediatricians.
  • Professor Keith Luk (Orthopaedics and Traumatology) was appointed President of the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine.
  • Professor Malik Peiris (Public Health) was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Microbiology.
  • Professor Agnes Tiwari (Nursing) has recently become President-elect of the Academy on Violence and Abuse.

In last year’s Address I reported the encouraging Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) results we achieved, coming top in six out of the seven cost centres mapped to our Faculty, with Chinese medicine coming second out of three schools. Earlier this summer, the University Grants Council (UGC) released the quality level weightings, which is used to determine 12.5% of institutions’ one-line vote. One out of every eight dollars in our annual block grant for the duration of the interval between successive RAEs, usually every 6 to 9 years, is at stake. The weightings are zero for unclassified and 1 star, one for 2 stars, four for 3 stars and nine for 4 stars. As you can appreciate this set of weightings has a steep gradient, by design. In other words, UGC is serious about rewarding excellence, and only so.

Given that Medicine fielded nearly 30% of the total number of staff assessed university-wide, our superlative performance relative to our competitors means that we have definitely punched above our considerable weight and in the process are able to provide much added value to the entire University. This is doubly important given that HKU as a whole, to be brutally honest, did not perform as well as was anticipated in the triennial Academic Development Plan (ADP) exercise for 2016-9, which allocates 70% of institutions’ one-line vote in the form of first-year-first-degree (FYFD) places. Our Faculty was the exception where UGC in fact gave us an additional 25 MBBS and 5 more BPharm places. Mr Provost, as the saying goes, all good deeds should be rewarded, lest no good deed goes unpunished. Please remember our good deeds in both the ADP and RAE come the next budget and resources allocation round.

In terms of research funding, we continue to lead the sector in the most recent funding cycles of both the Research Grants Council (RGC) and Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF). Specifically, in the RGC Biology and Medicine panel, we maintained our longstanding first place standing. In fact, our success ratio increased from 28.3% in 2015 to 30.5% this year. For HMRF, we again won over half of the total funding awarded.

During the past year, we have continued to invest heavily in platform technologies as key enablers to research excellence. In particular, together with University Central, we have commissioned a $90M major redevelopment of the Laboratory Animal Unit. Its net operating floor area will increase by more than one-third. New services to be launched after project completion include a carcinogen suite and facilities for performing experiments on ferrets, zebrafish, gerbils and immunodeficient rodents.

The other major new project is a partnership with the Dr Li Dak Sum HKU-Karolinska Centre in Regenerative Medicine. Together we are building a Core GMP[4] stem cell laboratory to produce quality-assured cell- and tissue-based regenerative products.

The Faculty Review panel tendered four recommendations in the research domain, three of which concern expanding and nurturing the corps of clinician-scientists. Similar to many other parts of the world, this breed is becoming rarer by the year. The incentive system is jigged against our ilk flourishing. It is exacerbated by the dire lack of doctors generally, at least in the public and specialist sectors, thus there is now an even steeper gradient in pay and conditions of service between full-time clinical practice and academia than already pre-existing. We acknowledge this Achilles heel, where the underlying drivers are helplessly outwith our direct remit or influence. There is however often disconnect between what would be perfectly rational recommendations on paper and the exigencies of reality on the wards and invisible but insidious peer pressure. Despite, or perhaps because of, the enormous challenges, we will seek to work in unison with the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and Chinese University of Hong Kong, which should share our concerns regarding the future of clinician-scientists, and together we can propose workable solutions to lobby for government and Hospital Authority support.

Furthermore there is another issue that is of fundamental importance to protecting and promoting opportunities for clinician-scientists. UGC space norms specify that for the purposes of calculating research space entitlement based on total research-related expenditure, the “clinical medicine” cost centre is discounted by 90% of the actual reported expenditure “to reflect the circumstance that a majority of the expenditure in clinical medicine affects space requirements off site from the main estates”. Since at least half and as much as 90% of the research budget in our clinical departments are laboratory-based and indeed take place on the main estates (i.e. along Sassoon Road on the medical campus) and not “off site” say in Queen Mary, the prevailing formula is misleading at best and in fact erroneous. This anachronistic characterisation of research in the clinical disciplines has hugely underestimated the Faculty’s space requirements, threatening the very survival of bench research for half of our professoriate staff belonging to the clinical departments. We have already made representation to University Central, through the Faculty Review process which is endorsed as a recommendation in the panel report, to seek urgent redress with UGC, preferably together with the Chinese University of Hong Kong which is presumably similarly affected.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Sassoon Road medical campus and beyond

I am pleased to report that, with the commendable support of the Estates Office and my Senior Advisor Professor Chan Ying Shing, detailed planning and technical feasibility studies have been completed for redeveloping the laundry site at 3 Sassoon Road. I am cautiously optimistic that it will win the necessary external approvals for works to begin before our anniversary year ends. This project is the absolute lynchpin to the Sassoon Road redevelopment master plan. Once completed, it will allow us to decant decades-old buildings on either side of the Road that have been in dire need of demolition and reconstruction and to re-provide for current users of those spaces. In parallel, the in situ enhancement project on our present site at 21 Sassoon Road, if realised, will provide much needed acute relief for both teaching and research space constraints. As the Faculty Review panel noted, “…the top priority is to meet international space norms for both teaching and research…”.

Last year at this occasion, I pleaded openly with the then guest of honour the Chief Secretary for Administration to support redeveloping Grantham Hospital into a regional cancer hub with an onsite translational research block for precision medicine. Evidently Government heard and answered our plea and in this year’s Policy Address and Budget included the project in the Hospital Authority’s ten-year major works programme. We have therefore begun talks with the parent board, the Hong Kong Tuberculosis, Chest and Heart Diseases Association as well as management of Grantham Hospital and the Hong Kong West Cluster to bring this major project to fruition in an expedited fashion. Meanwhile we are in the final stages of securing outside funding for major equipment and human capital needs of the research block in our own “moonshot for cancer” precision medicine initiative.

Users and providers of health services,

Clinical affairs

The refurbished Senior Staff Quarters (SSQ) at Queen Mary Hospital are close to completion. We anticipate that the Departments of Microbiology and Pathology will be moving into these brand new facilities in the coming few months, which notably includes a BSL3[5] laboratory, our second such facility, that has double the floor space of its predecessor in the University Pathology Building. The Hospital Authority has also been most helpful with replacement equipment purchase arising from the move, which will bolster our research capacity. However we remain very concerned about the suboptimal ceiling height, given the nature of the conversion works from a residential building into laboratories. Therefore we have emphasised to the Hospital Authority Head Office as well as Queen Mary that the SSQ laboratories should be reprovisioned with more suitable space in the second phase of the Hospital’s redevelopment post-2023.

Another capital project that is about to be completed is of course Gleneagles Hong Kong. HKU Health System (HKUHS) has been working closely with the commissioning team to ensure adherence to best practice in clinical governance and appropriate and adequate staffing of clinical services. GHK plans to admit its first patient during the first half of 2017.

Professor Lo Chung Mau is about to complete his first month as Hospital Chief Executive of the HKU-Shenzhen Hospital. He of course succeeds the irreplaceable Professor Grace Tang, who incidentally signed my appointment papers when she was Dean almost two decades ago. To Grace, we bid you a very happy retirement, or perhaps the next stage of your long and brilliant career yet awaits. Thank you for your dedicated service in Shenzhen and for bravely walking a path that had not been trodden before you set out to pave it for subsequent generations. To CM, good luck and know that HKU Health System is fully behind you in all that you do. I am confident that you will wield the proverbial sword to cut the many Gordian knots the Hospital will present as effortlessly and successfully as you do your scalpel.

To assist the new Hospital Chief Executive in strategic planning and execution, the University Council has constituted a review panel to examine the role and responsibility of the University; and the governance, financial arrangement and business model in the partnership with the Shenzhen authorities in the light of the first five years of operational experience, and to propose a way forward in our continuing mutual engagement that would fit better the purposes of both the University and the Hospital.

Congratulations are due to Professor Irene Ng, Head of Pathology who was recently appointed Chief of Service (COS) at Queen Mary, having already served a term as deputy. This is hugely significant to reuniting the sometime fractured link between clinical practice and academic work, which in a teaching hospital is one of the most important and inextricable relationships. I trust Irene will harness the opportunities this appointment brings to take the Department to the next level of clinical and academic excellence. I look forward to more such dual appointments in the remaining departments that have yet to achieve reunion of the headship and COSship at Queen Mary. Note that this is the natural arrangement for all clinical departments at HKU-Shenzhen and also in most departments at GHK.

The next task would be to partner with hospital management to align the organisation of departmental and divisional structures at Queen Mary, as well as our other teaching hospitals, with the University departments. There remain legacy arrangements that are no longer fit for purpose and should be rectified as a matter of priority, in order to optimise patient care and at once our academic mission.

Yet another exciting development quickly looming on the horizon is the Hong Kong Children’s Hospital that is due to be commissioned in 2018. Both medical schools have been allocated research laboratory space, where the governance and funding arrangements are currently being negotiated. We have also been approached by the Hospital Authority seeking partnership to raise philanthropic donations that would support translational research, as well as the possibility of jointly appointing clinician-scientists. We welcome both initiatives such that the Children’s Hospital can become a real academic medical centre of excellence in child and adolescent health.

I am pleased to note that HKU Health System has been affirmed by the Faculty Review panel as a unifying governance platform for the University’s clinical enterprise. Its institutional structure is beginning to take good shape, where we have been fleshing out the skeleton establishment to now include a full-time clinical director, a senior nurse leader and a senior audit professional supported by a small team of operational colleagues. HKUHS will be commissioning a consultancy from Academic Health Solutions led by Professor Sir John Tooke, who masterminded the hugely successful UCL Partners establishment in the UK.

Fellow colleagues,

Human capital

Last year I reported that we had begun to take proactive steps to recruit the best talents from around the world, through academic headhunting, and especially for headship and directorship positions. I am pleased to announce that Professor Keiji Fukuda will be taking up duty as Director of the School of Public Health in two weeks’ time. Prior to his present appointment, Professor Fukuda was Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organisation and the Director-General’s Special Representative on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). He was the primary mover who managed to bring AMR to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly this September – only the third health topic ever to have done so, where the first concerned HIV/AIDS in 2001 and the second non-communicable diseases in 2011. For those of us who have been around a while, we remember Keiji from as far back as the 1997 H5N1 outbreak when he assisted Hong Kong as part of the US CDC[6] expert delegation. We will also be welcoming the new Head of the School of Nursing in the spring, who is a much respected nursing leader and dean of nursing in the region. We are also finalising the appointments of the Head of Pharmacology and Pharmacy as well as the Director of the School of Biomedical Sciences. I look forward to introducing them to you when they assume duty.

This past year the human capital deanery has been working overtime to deliver on the differentiated model of human capital management I sketched out in my 2015 Address. In tandem with the University initiative led by the Provost and the Vice President (Academic Staffing and Resources), we have recently started to develop appointment and evaluation criteria for the different categories, i.e. academic, research, teaching and practice, and at the different professoriate levels, namely assistant, associate and full.  As you can imagine, there are 11 different sets of criteria and objectives in the matrix that require thoughtful and deliberate input from staff and heads. With the support of University Central, I hope to be able to consult widely before implementation.

We have gone one step further. Particularly for staff in the academic professoriate category, but equally applicable to all, especially for those who are already tenured, there remains the question of how best to motivate and to facilitate within-track differentiation. Again our thinking dovetails with the Human Resources Section’s revision of the performance review and development (PRD) process. The basic idea is for reviewee and reviewer to begin the academic year by agreeing to a set of objectives and performance indicators, by which the end-of-year PRD will then be conducted. As part of this process, we envision that heads, in their role as reviewers or endorsers of reviews, would also engage in job planning for members of staff. As such colleagues may negotiate the relative proportions of effort and time to be dedicated to the various domains of teaching, research, service and clinical duties as applicable. It would be up to the heads concerned to ensure coordination at the departmental level such that teaching and clinical duties are fulfilled as a whole, while allowing maximum flexibility for individual colleagues to develop professionally and to excel.

While the new and improved PRD should befit the purpose of performance evaluation and monitoring, there is an equally if not more important aspect of human capital development, that is nurturing colleagues through defining clearly laid out career pathways and mentoring them to progress through these pathways. This is a huge task which we have undertaken to the Review Panel that we will fulfil.

More specifically, the policy of protecting young clinical academics from overwhelming ward duties will be revisited. Furthermore, we will continue to expand funded opportunities to support local or overseas training for junior clinician-scientists to hone the necessary competencies in carrying out basic, translational and clinical research. One such example is the recent Li Shu Pui Foundation donation to the Dean’s Fund to support cancer-related research for young clinicians.

Another programme of work initiated by University Central concerns outside practice. I made an open and unreserved acknowledgement last year that our Faculty had learned some hard lessons previously. Therefore we are paying special attention to ensure that we structure the regulatory framework right in the present instance. This will cover all health care facilities at which our colleagues carry out clinical outside practice, including Queen Mary, Hong Kong Sanatorium and GHK. We are also rolling out an enhanced monitoring system where risk-based audits are being routinely conducted.

Finally, on staff benefits, we are looking into the medical benefit package of newly appointed and existing clinical staff, who are providing frontline and often nearly “full-time” clinical services in the Hong Kong West cluster as honorary staff, to ensure parity with their Hospital Authority counterparts, including spousal and post-retirement entitlements.

Alumni and alumni-to-be of LKS Medicine,

130th anniversary

On October 16, we formally kicked off the year-long anniversary celebrations. The occasion brought together all the hospital partners who have grown with us in the past 130 years and are also celebrating major anniversaries, as well as close to a thousand alumni, students and staff in a happy homecoming.

A dizzying array of celebratory activities, including state-of-the-science research meetings, knowledge exchange exhibitions, community outreach programmes, cultural activities, class reunions, books and publications, and many many more have been planned for the year, leading up to the grand finale of the 198th congregation ceremony cum homecoming dinner on December 17, 2017 at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a special “thank you” to Dr Kathleen So, class of Medic ’71, who succeeded Professors Rosie Young, Lee Kin Hung and Leung Nai Kong as President of the HKU Medical Alumni Association. Kat had given so much of herself in devotion to the work of the Association. The mantle is now passed to Dr Barbara Lam, whose class of Medic ’81 has recently celebrated their 35th anniversary. Salute to Kat and all best wishes to Barbara!


If you have learned anything from HKU, I pray that they are our cherished values of wisdom, compassion and commitment, inherited through our forebears through the last 130 years and counting.

I pray that you have learned that wisdom goes beyond intelligence, knowledge or competency; that there is more than one way of knowing, thinking and doing; that humility is the conjoint twin of wisdom; and that ultimately wisdom is the never-ending pursuit of virtue.

I pray that through your days on the wards and in the community, you have learned to feel the pain of those who suffer, to share the joy of those who are healed, and to be in touch with the everyday emotions of your neighbours as well as your own.

I pray that you will remember, reflect on and live by the Hippocratic Oath which you took on the first day of school; and remain committed to the ideals of your profession, but above all to the wellbeing of your charge, from the lowliest to the mightiest.

Wisdom, compassion and commitment will stand you in good stead for many, many fulfilling years ahead. God bless and good luck!


[1] Quacquarelli Symonds

[2] Diploma of Secondary Education

[3] Joint University Programmes Admission System

[4] Good Manufacturing Practice

[5] Biosafety level 3

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention