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Sir Peter John MORRIS

157th 

Congregation

 (1999)

Sir Peter John MORRIS

Doctor of Science
honoris causa

The Public Orator, Professor M.M.M. Chan, MA, MPhil, wrote and delivered the following citation:

Medical doctors have not always had a good press. Diderot, for example, has said that the best doctor is the one you run for and cant find. But in more recent times the image of the doctor - especially the surgeon - has undergone a quantum leap not only to respectability but to glamour, as witness Ben Casey, Dr Kildare and the sexy protagonists of ER or Chicago Hope. Professor Sir Peter Morris has the good fortune to be a real-life surgeon who enjoys the highest reputation as a clinician and as a researcher in the field of organ transplants.

Born in Australia in 1934 Sir Peter has spent virtually the whole of his working life, since 1974, in Oxford, the excellent facilities and working environment compensating for the weather, so often less clement than that of his native Australia. He obtained M.B., B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Melbourne and in 1974 an M.A. from Oxford. He is Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and of the American College of Surgeons. To merely read through a list of Sir Peter's current appointments would be exhausting; to fully understand the nature of his achievements would require detailed explanation, especially if, like Charles Lamb, "you are a whole encyclopaedia behind the rest of the world" in everything that relates to science and the latest medical techniques. I shall not even attempt a full listing, only a partial one which includes those posts and honours which I know on excellent and reliable authority to represent truly significant achievements in the profession. Since 1994 he has been Nuffield Professor of Surgery and Chairman of the Department, University of Oxford, Oxford Radcliffe Hospital and Director of the Oxford Transplant Centre. These posts are prestigious indeed. In addition he is Fellow of Balliol College and Honorary Consultant Surgeon, Oxford Radcliffe Hospital. He serves as Member or Chairman of many important committees relating to medical research and care. For example, since 1991 he has been Member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and, since 1996, President of the European Surgical Association. In addition he is a member of the Scientific Council, Transplantation Research Institute, University of Nantes, Chairman of the Research Board, Royal College of Surgeons of England, and Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation. It is clear that his knowledge and expertise are valued not just in Britain but also far beyond British shores.

Sir Peter is at the pinnacle of a career that he chose for himself after reading a book on neurosurgery at the age of seventeen, and his field has not ceased to fascinate him. He is mainly engaged in clinical work and in research and does little teaching but still organizes undergraduate surgical teaching and postgraduate surgical training. His clinical work involves the kidney and the pancreatic islets, but his research covers the whole field of transplants. A glance through the annual report of the Nuffield Department of Surgery and Division of Surgery, University of Oxford, of which he is Nuffield Professor and Chairman, shows the range and success of the research and clinical work undertaken in areas such as neurosurgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, urology and cardiothoracic surgery and paediatric surgery. The Oxford Transplant Centre is busy with renal transplantation, access surgery and a variety of renal related surgical procedures totalling some 700 operative procedures in 1996 alone. Added to this is the extensive workload imposed by transplant follow-up clinics. Sir Peter intends to retire in three years, not, as one might expect, to a life of well earned rest in the bosom of his family; instead he will devote himself to research.

Although one might be led to suppose that Sir Peter is a contented man, having achieved so much, in fact he has two as yet unfulfilled ambitions. One ambition is to achieve tolerance for organ grafts. Studies are being carried out to determine the factors causing the development of chronic rejection, and he hopes to see these studies result in the provision of a means of dealing with rejection on the part of the recipient so that the graft would then be accepted without side effects or rejection. A most laudable ambition.

His second ambition is equally laudable. Indeed in the minds of Greek philosophers this second as yet unachieved ambition relates to what they considered a religious and civic, in a word, moral, undertaking", an activity which they said "is morally serious because mankind's noblest aim is the loving contemplation of worthy things, such as beauty and courage" (George F.Will, 1990). In this way did they view sport. Sir Peter would most likely agree, for he is an outstanding sportsman. The Nuffield Annual Report includes a reference to the activities of the NDS Sports and Social Club in the introductory overview and includes a section on Sport and the achievements of staff under this head, quite at home among all the details alluding to surgical procedures and research findings. It is not surprising, therefore that Sir Peter cites as his second as yet unrealized ambition more time to play golf so that he can cut down his handicap of 11 to a single digit one. He is accomplished in squash, though now no longer active in this sport, and also tennis and cricket, but golf is his chief recreational sport.

Notwithstanding his unfulfilled ambitions Sir Peter could well rest on his laurels judging from the vast number of awards and honours he has received. From 1971 onwards he has been receiving accolades at the rate of virtually at least one, and often many more than one, a year. Tributes to his ability come from all parts of the globe including Australia, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Brazil, India, South Africa, Britain and Hong Kong. Among the honours which have been conferred upon him are some of the awards most highly regarded by the profession. These include the Waltman Walters Professorship, Mayo Clinic (1994), Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (both 1995). In 1997 alone Sir Peter received four awards, including the prestigious Lister Medal and Foreign Associate Membership of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Sir Peter was awarded a Knighthood in 1996 for his services to medicine. Of his many honours and awards, one which he acknowledges gives him great gratification is Fellowship of the Royal Society, to which he was elected in 1994, a fitting reward for years of hard work and dedication. What makes him even prouder of this prestigious award is the fact that only three surgeons have ever been awarded Fellowships, out of a total of about ten clinicians altogether. We wish today to pay tribute not just to Sir Peter's mind or his skill with his hands, but also to his heart. As Longfellow has put it: "It is the heart, and not the brain that to the highest doth attain".

And we have ample testimony of Sir Peter's kindness, his modesty, his willingness to help and his generosity of spirit. He is no stranger to our University, having visited us in various capacities, participating for example, in a surgical forum and as holder of the Ho Tam Kit Hing Professorship in the Department of Medicine in 1994. He first came to know Hong Kong, situated as it is between Australia and Britain, some thirty years ago, and he is generous in his praise of our medical faculty and of the fascinations of our ever changing city. He is flattered and made proud by our decision to honour him because it cements his bonds with our University. The feeling of pride is mutual.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, for his contributions to medical science I present Professor Sir Peter Morris for the degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa.

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