"Burden" and "Hope" for New Fellows


Speech by Dr C H Leong

President of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine

at the Fellowship/ Membership Conferral Ceremony of

The Hong Kong College of Physicians

on 1 June 2001

Mr President, Fellow Graduands, Ladies and Gentlemen,

       May I begin by congratulating the granduands of today. Whether you have been awarded a Fellowship or a membership is an immerse achievement, a turning point in your life and career. For as from today you are on your way to become a specialist in medicine, the creme de la creme, the first amongst equals.

       It may be opportune for me to thank your President and the Council of the College for giving me this singular honour of addressing you tonight. Taking aside the fact that I represent the Academy of Medicine, I am still very much a surgeon. I am given to understand that Vice Chancellor Arthur Li will also be addressing the College later in another forum. Prof Li is undoubtedly a seasoned administrator and a shrewd politician. Yet to me, he is still very much a surgeon at heart if not in deed. To have two surgeons addressing the College of Physicians in your annual Fellowship conferment ceremony is not only epoch making but signifies a very much needed cooperation and bondage between the different factions of the Academy and the brotherhood of the medical fraternity. So let us begin!

       Mr President, one could not be too far wrong to label the last few years as the Dark Ages of the medical profession ?the patients are demanding and insatiable; the politicians are taking every opportunities to denigrate our credibility; the media consider it a field day should there be a slight medical mishap; the businessman-orientated health corporates are eating into our income; the Asian financial crisis has put the last straw by dragging many into negative assets.

       The profession itself cannot be absolved from blame ?the all too unnecessary political bickering within our own rank albeit from a few to achieve their personal political agenda has resulted in the sour relationship between the Government and the profession; a chasm between the private and the public sectors, the specialists and the generalists, the senior and the junior doctors not realizing that a golden opportunity is set for the media to play Peter against Paul.

The final nail must come from the recent poor handling of the Medical Council. The public has thrown in the gauntlet. The respect and confidence they have towards the profession has plummeted to an all time low.

       Yet, there is no point crying over spilt milk, nor is there anything to gain by continuing the gloom and doom. Instead, the profession must gather our wits, pick ourselves up and work to recover lost ground. You, I, the College and the Academy are all together in this battle.

Throughout the past month, many in our profession have aired their views on how to recover our lost grounds ?from reforming the Medical Council, actively publicizing the many "good works" of our profession, putting up more guidelines, setting up independent mechanism to investigate medical mishaps, ensuring more stringent standard and quality vetting; to the more radical suggestion of "treating every patient as a potential complainant", "the media are sharks".

 How much and how well these will work is uncertain. But one issue is obvious: if any patient could know for sure that no matter which doctor he sees, his health and life would be cared by professionals equipped with the highest standard and the fast medical advances, public confidence and respect to our profession would naturally follow.

 Interesting enough, what the public demand is what the Academy has always been in pursuit. The Academy, through its constituent colleges, is empowered by law to determine standard, monitor and vet standard of our Fellows. This we do and fellowships are only awarded to those that have attained the highest.

 Our forefathers who spearheaded the Academy, many are in the audience, must be given the highest accolade to have demanded that it must be stipulated in law that having an Academy Fellowship is not enough and that adequate attendance of Continuing Medical Education (CME) is a legal pre-requirement to specialist registration. Transparency of the highest possible standard is thus attained, for a specialist must not only need to be properly accredited by the Academy, but also demonstrate spending enough time to keep up with medical advances.

 Yet the Academy has to do more. The different Colleges will not only need to work in close collaboration with their international counterparts, but also demonstrate to the public that our approved standards are at par with the best in the world. Our approved CME programmes must be made more stringent to demonstrate to the public that the life long learning is quality education. Different Colleges must come forth with necessary clinical protocols and guidelines and determine accreditation criteria for new and specialized interventional techniques. The Academy must work with the Colleges to determine Quality Assurance.

 The College of Physicians deserves to be congratulated in taking a leading role in these directions. As it is, there are now established criteria in your College for endoscopic examinations, intravascular dilation and stenting. Moves are now being finalized with the Hospital Authority on quality requirement of haemodialysis setup.

 All these will mean more work for the Colleges, more coordination from the Academy, more time spent in training for our Fellows. It would also mean more rules and regulations for our Fellows to follow.

 The profession should welcome such a move, for not only will it improve our service to our patients, but also prepare us to be better equipped. More importantly, the profession is taking all these on our own without the interference of the public and Government, demonstrating that we can put our own house in order, and justifying our determination for professional autonomy.

 But all these developments should not only be limited to the Academy, the Colleges and our Fellows alone. The whole profession, be they specialists or otherwise, must move in such positive direction, for what is more superior than to "improve ourselves as doctors, and at the same time help others - our patients"?

 The Academy is in the best position to bring all these about. We are above board, away from the controversies of politics; and we are the legal medical standard setting body. With your help, we will push ahead with all these. The honour of the medical profession is at stake. There is no turning back.

 It has been said "國家興亡,匹夫有責". As a new member of this fraternity, the credibility of the profession is as much a responsibility of yours as mine. I apologise for having to place such heavy burden on your shoulder at the turning point of your career. I look forward to salute you in the course of time.

 My congratulation again to the new graduands and the College of Physicians for delivering such promising Fellows.


C.H. Leong