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May 2014

Dear Fellows and colleagues,

After a busy period preparing for our 20th Anniversary in December last year, we managed to have a short break. Yet another busy year has begun.

In late March, the Academy formed a delegation of specialists and visited the National Health and Family Planning Commission of PRC in Beijing. The Academy has been invited by the Commission since  last  year  to  help  assess  applications  for  funding  of  not-for-profit  research  relating  to  medical development for healthcare services in the mainland. This is a national project started several years ago, covering different fields of service which would benefit the public at large. The medical profession is one of the areas included in the project. A pilot run was done last year with the Academy leading experts from the two universities. This year, a delegation of around 30 specialists, led by myself, the two Vice-Presidents and Honorary Secretary of the Academy, paid two visits to Beijing. The 2-day visits were packed with busy meetings to assess funding applications relating to different medical specialties. All delegates were formally appointed as Honorary Advisor by the Commission for 3 years during the visit. It is expected that more Fellows would be invited to participate in future and the Academy would involve the different colleges in the nomination process.

Hong Kong is no stranger to the challenges that Mother Nature likes to throw at humanity. Every year we are battered by typhoons during the summer, and during the winter new viruses try their luck here. It is hard to believe that a decade has elapsed since the SARS virus arrived here, shutting down the city, and putting us on a medical ‘war footing’ that eventually saw the virus contained. Right now we are on the alert for avian influenza viruses — and so far are managing to hold them back.

Earthquakes, floods, new epidemic diseases, fires, industrial accidents, you name it, we’ve got it in China. Not only have we got it, we have dealt with it. In 2008, the world applauded the Beijing Olympics, but for many of us it was the response to the Yunnan earthquake a few months earlier that really swelled our national pride. The commitment to saving lives and restoring some sort of normality to those who had lost so much brought us all together.

A delegation from Harvard School of Public Health visited the Academy in early April. The delegation was on a mission to discuss and explore the possibility of establishing an academic collaboration with the Academy, initially named as “the Hong Kong Harvard Humanitarian Initiative for Disaster Response”.

Through a collective effort, we will take the initiative to establish Hong Kong as an international leader in disaster preparedness and response training. This will be achieved by conducting disaster-related courses and training which is certificate-based locally and regionally, as well as by establishing necessary simulation networks with different levels whilst conveying the stakeholders on detailed need analysis and complex table-top exercises through this Hong Kong–Harvard Collaboration. Over a 5-year period, we are expecting to train 6000 medical and public health professionals engaged in disaster preparedness and response in Hong Kong, China, and the Asia Pacific region. We hope to host the future Institute here at the Academy.

Groundwork started in end of last year through liaising with Prof Michael VanRooyen, the Executive Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Being a world renowned expert in humanitarian issues, Prof VanRooyen has been giving advices widely sought by many heads of states in times of disasters. I am privileged to have the opportunity to work with such a prominent figure.

In the following few months, we will be tied up preparing a well-structured proposal incorporating input from our collaborating partners, which includes the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response, Centre for Global Health, the FXB Centre for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, and the University of Hong Kong.

A lot of work is required from the beginning. A working group, comprising the major participants, has been formed and many constructive discussions have already been held on the best way to proceed. I am grateful to everyone for their dedication and hard work. We are seeking funding from the Hong Kong Jockey Club for this project.

The Academy hosted a dinner at the Academy building in honour of Dean Julio Frenk of the Harvard School of Public Health to welcome his delegation of 40 plus members. It was well attended by 100 guests, many are the world’s renowned specialists in medicine, healthcare professionals, and policymakers. Dean Julio Frenk delivered an inspiring and insightful speech and answered some challenging questions.

I believe many of you have met Dean Julio Frenk and know a lot about him. Dr Frenk served as the Minister of Health of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, where he pursued an ambitious agenda to reform the nation’s health system, with an emphasis on redressing social inequality. He is perhaps best known for his work in introducing a programme of universal insurance coverage, known as Seguro Popular, which has expanded access to comprehensive health services for 52 million previously uninsured Mexicans. In September 2008, Dr Frenk received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for changing “the way practitioners and policy makers across the world think about health.”

I look forward to reporting progress of the collaboration project with Harvard in the next issue of Focus.

In  April,  I  was  in  Orlando,  Florida  USA  attending  the  annual  meeting  of  the American College of Physicians, and participated in an international presidents’ forum on CME/CPD and recertification.

I reported that HKAM has been discussing for years the issue of “credentialing” —  a  process  to  verify  the  qualifications,  experience,  and  professional  standing of  medical/dental  practitioners  for  the  purpose  of  forming  a  view  about  their competence, performance and professional suitability to provide safe, high-quality healthcare services within specific organisational environments. The Academy is empowered  by  statute  to  look  after  training  and  standard  of  all  medical/dental specialists  in  Hong  Kong.  At  present,  we  feel  that  CME/CPD  would  provide continuous quality assurance. But somehow we may need to consider blending ourselves into the international trend of recertification/revalidation.

Recertification and revalidation is more than an examination. It involves a way of assessing the performance of the individual that is achievable. It needs to be a credible form of assessment to patients; and can be applied to the majority of physicians working in each specialty. Yet there are many challenges, e.g. how to identify measurable indicators that can be reasonably collected during clinical work; how to collect data that is interpretable and verifiable, and how to make it in a form proportionate and acceptable to all specialty and facilitate comparative audit.

All these would need further deliberation and the Academy Education Committee would continue its discussion in near future.

Lastly, may I wish you all a great, restful Spring and Summer.

Dr Donald Li

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