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Message from President

Presidential Address

Annual Conferment Ceremony, Hong Kong College of Physicians, 21st October, 2023

Prof Daniel Tak Mao CHAN

Dr Sarah Clarke, President of the Royal College of Physicians. Prof CM Lo, Prof Gilberto Leung, Dr Ronald Lam, Dr KL Chung, Honorary Fellows, Presidents from Academy Colleges. colleagues, guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining our Conferment Ceremony this evening.

After a few years’ of COVID-19 restrictions, this year we are totally ‘back to normal’, with a banquet accompanying the Annual Conferment Ceremony. To our newly admitted Members and Fellows, this is a day worthy of celebrations because the high standard of physicians trained in Hong Kong is internationally recognized. In this regard, I wish to highlight the important partnership that the Hong Kong College of Physicians has with the Royal College of Physicians. It is through this partnership that we ensure that our trainees have built a solid foundation in knowledge and skill, both clinical skill as well as communication skill, in physician training, and have a high professional and ethical standard. Hong Kong is one of the first international examination centres for MRCP, and has been holding the examination since the late 1980s. I was among the first candidates who took the examination in Hong Kong, so I can attest to the history and high standard of the MRCP examination conducted in Hong Kong.

I notice that many family members of our newly admitted Members and Fellows have joined us this evening. So perhaps I would say a few words about the College. Someone has asked me what does the Hong Kong College of Physicians do. So, what is the College? In brief, the College of Physicians oversees the training of all physicians in Hong Kong. This includes designing the training curriculum for the different medical specialties and updating the curricula on a regular basis, devising and conducting assessment of trainees to make sure that the trainees meet the standards, ensuring that the training programmes are valid and effective, appointing trainers, and accrediting training centres. The progress of trainees are monitored as they proceed through the sequential phases of Basic then Higher Physician Training respectively. For those who have attended this afternoon's scientific sessions, in which speakers from the Royal College of Physicians have spoken on physician training in the U.K., you will notice that the basic framework of the physician training programme locally is very much similar to that in the UK. We have three years of Basic Physician Training which guarantees a solid foundation in broad-based training in general medicine, before going into Higher Physician Training which includes a specific specialty and a broad-based programme which can be Advanced Internal Medicine or Geriatrics. Also, before one can proceed to Higher Physician Training, one must pass the MRCP examination, which is an important way to benchmark with the best international standards and for quality assurance of our training program.

But the College is more than a training institute. Since the Fellowship of the College includes specialists from all disciplines, encompassing those working in the public sector, such as the Hospital Authority, the Department of Health, and the two Universities, as well as those working in the private sector, the College is a good position to advise the government and healthcare authorities and other bodies on clinical service and development, so that our community is well positioned and prepared to meet the evolving healthcare needs of the public. The College, being the biggest as internal medicine is the core of healthcare services in all countries, works to ensure that our doctors continue to practice medicine at a high professional standard, and also actively engage in training, education and research. Promotion of research is one of the important missions of the College, since it is only through addressing clinically relevant knowledge gaps that one can bring about improvements in healthcare, and research breeds clinical excellence which is ultimately for the good of the public. While basic research is conducted by colleagues in academia, much of the excellent clinical research output is also performed by colleagues working in the Hospital Authority, making use of the valuable clinical material and resources provided by our patients and the local healthcare setup. And so the College not only has a task in training, but also plays an important role in healthcare development and the advancement of medicine.

Now, let me say a few words to our newly admitted Fellows. Today you have achieved an important landmark, indeed an important milestone, in your career development. Now that you have attained a very good foundation in internal medicine, it’s time to think about the future. While you were a physician trainee, the things that you were required to do were mostly planned for you and prescribed in the training programmes. From now on you would encounter a lot of situations when you would need to make choices and decisions. You will have to make choices in your career, and choices in your lives. The first thing I’d like to talk about is the very popular notion of ‘work-life balance’. My message is very simple – there is no such thing as ‘work-life balance’. Indeed, I think looking at things this way is a very bad idea, because it dichotomizes ‘work’ versus ‘life’, and seems to elevate the status of ‘life’ while denigrating the importance of ‘work’. This is obviously not correct. In fact, work is an important element in life, and without work your life would be rather empty. And so, instead of thinking about ‘work-life balance’, I think it is more important to consider what are the factors that should affect your choices, so that you can make the right choices in your career and in life. I’d like you to think about what are the things that you value, the times that you remember, and the experiences that you treasure. These are the things that would guide you to make the right choices, decisions that you would not regret. Think about the past few years, when you’ve been working in public hospitals, our main training ground. Think about what are the things that have given you job satisfaction. Often it is the appreciation by patients and their family, even when sometimes the outcome may not be what one had hoped for, but they expressed gratitude to your efforts and care to the patient. Teamwork is often mentioned as a treasured experience - colleagues at different levels working towards common goals; and the opportunity to learn from your seniors and to teach the younger generation. These are just some examples that may help guide your choices and help one get a clear idea of what you value in life. Monetary value attracts immediate attention, but money can be made and lost, while life experience stays with you forever. The other thing that stays with you is continuous lifelong learning. I always encourage younger colleagues to work towards a higher degree such as an MD, telling them that once obtained it is yours forever, and that a good time to do this is when one is still young, energetic, and inquisitive.

We’ve talked about the things that are of value to us, the work and experiences that can enrich our life. You would notice that a lot of these fruitful experiences come from teamwork and working in the public sector. When you work in a team you interact with different people and encounter different views and perspectives. Conflicting views is no problem. It's important to be open to different perspectives and ideas. It is only through looking at things from different angles that one becomes more mature, and would be better equipped to accomplish one’s goals. Also, I would encourage our younger doctors to continue to work in the public sector because this is where we can serve the underprivileged. I'm concerned that while scientific and medical advances have improved disease management, healthcare has become more and more expensive. Equity and access to care is becoming an important issue even in developed countries. As doctors we have a duty to our patients. When you think about our predecessors and teachers, people who are inspirational and whom we respect and aspire to, they often demonstrate a strong sense of duty and responsibility, to their patients and to their colleagues often to the point of sacrificing their own interests, and a strong sense of justice and integrity. I hope you would follow these examples and make your choices wisely, and I wish you a fruitful career and an enriching life. Thank you.