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Walton LI Wai Tat




Walton LI Wai Tat

Doctor of Social Sciences
honoris causa

Mr Pro-Chancellor,

Dr Walton Li Wai Tat has played a pivotal role in advancing medicine in Hong Kong, both by his important work in developing the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital ("the Hospital") and by his close collaboration with tertiary institutions in Hong Kong to further medical education. In particular, he has been a great supporter of medical education at this University.

Dr Li comes from a remarkable dynasty of doctors. His uncle, Dr Li Shu Fan, graduated from the Hong Kong College of Medicine in 1908. The College was incorporated into the Medical Faculty of this University in 1912. Dr Li Shu Fan was appointed the first Minister of Health in Dr Sun Yat Sen's government. In 1961, this University conferred on him an honorary LLD, naming him as a benefactor to the University. The Hospital was established in 1922 and Dr Li Shu Fan was the first Medical Superintendent. He was succeeded by Dr Li's father, Dr Li Shu Pui in 1966 who headed the Hospital for the next forty years. Dr Li Shu Pui was appointed an Honorary Fellow of this University in 1998. Dr Walton Li assumed the role of superintendent in 2005. Dr Li's mother, Mrs Ellen Li, was also a remarkable person, who was well known for her fight for equality of women in education and the work place. She was the first woman appointed as a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and his mother received an honorary LLD from this University almost half a century ago in 1969.

Dr Walton Li attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), School of Medicine for his medical qualification. He then underwent specialist training in ophthalmology at UCLA and completed his fellowship in Corneal and External Ocular Disease at the Jules Stein Eye Institute. He became a Diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1979.

In 1980 Dr Li joined the Hospital where he established, and has since headed, the Department of Ophthalmology. In 2005 he was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hospital, a position he still holds. Indeed, our Chairman of Council, Dr CH Leong, serves as a member of the Clinical Governance Committee of the Hospital.

In 1993 Dr Li became a Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine (Ophthalmology) and served as Vice President of the College of Ophthalmologists of Hong Kong from 2005 to 2009. He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 2007 and served as Chairman of the Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association from 2000-2006.

Dr Li is also Chairman of the Li Shu Fan Medical Foundation ("the Foundation"), which was established by his uncle in 1963 and is the largest shareholder of the Hospital. The Foundation serves as a platform to promote medical education, medical research and medical charity. It has been through the Foundation and the Hospital that Dr Li has realised his visions to provide generous support for medical and nursing education.

Dr Li strove to establish close links with this University and, in this endeavour, has been most successful.

The Foundation has made various donations exceeding $170 million to this University to improve the training of doctors and nurses, to support medical research and to improve patient care. The University is, indeed, most grateful for his support. The Foundation has, over the past nine years, established seven Endowed Professorships at HKU, one of the most notable being the Li Shu Pui Endowed Professorship in Surgery, so named to commemorate Dr Li's father. With the encouragement of Dr Li, twelve doctors, who had either close personal or professional relationships with Dr Li Shu Pui, came together to establish the Endowed Professorship.

Indeed the relationship between HKU and the Foundation and the Hospital is symbiotic. Dr Li is a fervent believer in the importance of high quality medical education and, in turn, the Hospital, together with Hong Kong's public medical institutions, is able to provide a high standard of patient care.

In his own words:

"The better you train the next generation of doctors and nurses, the better it is for medical care and services for the patients in the future".

In 1997 Dr Li was appointed Honorary Associate Professor of the Faculty of Medicine at this University. Together with the then Dean, Professor SP Chow, he initiated a programme for HKU medical students to be attached to the Hospital to acquaint them with medical practice in the private sector. The programme, which began in 1998, is still flourishing. This was followed by joint specialist training programmes between the Hospital and this University in general surgery, ophthalmology and orthopaedic surgery. He was appointed Honorary Professor in the University's Eye Institute in 2007 and in the same year was appointed an Honorary Fellow of this University.

Our University has not been the sole beneficiary of Dr Li's generosity. Donations have also been made to the Nursing Schools of the Open University of Hong Kong and Polytechnic University for the training of nurses. The Foundation also established two named professorships at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2013 and 2014 respectively, as well as an endowed professorship at Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA in 2013.

With the vision and inspiration of his father and the tenacity of his mother in breaking down barriers, Dr Li has achieved a great deal. He modestly acknowledges, however, that there is still room for improvement by forging ever closer links between the medical and the tertiary institutions, raising the standard of training of medical personnel and enhancing what he calls the "total patient experience". He has no intention of resting on his laurels and he still burns with ardour to inspire the next generation to achieve further heights.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to present to you Dr Walton Li Wai Tat for the award of Doctor of Social Sciences honoris causa.

Citation written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator of the University. 

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