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George Harold THOMAS

Doctor of Laws
honoris causa

Dr George Harold THOMAS, in alphabetical sequence the last to be honoured today, has the distinction of being the first to graduate of this University. Educated at the Diocesan Boys’ School, he obtained his Licentiate Diploma of Medicine and Surgery from the Hong Kong College of Medicine in 1912, and graduated from the Medical Faculty of the newly formed University in 1914. He is also our first MD, for he went to obtain his doctorate in 1920. In fact, collecting firsts has become something of a habit with him. He was the first local man to be appointed Deputy and subsequently Acting Director of Medical Services, Hong Kong, during the period 1947 to 1949. He is also the first of our graduates to be elected without examination to a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and the presentation of the Diploma to him in Hong Kong last month by the Queen’s Surgeon was the first occasion it had ever been presented outside the College premises in London. He is surely also one of the very few to have four sons named after great figures in medicine and science – Osler, Huxley, Kelvin, and Barclay. Had two of them been twins, on is tempted to think he might have had one baptised and kept the other as a control.

His life has been spent practicing medicine as a Hong Kong Government servant, and teaching medicine in the University. The young resident surgeon in the Tung Wah Hospital in 1912 was destined to become its Superintendent in 1937 and 1938 and after the war. He was assistant medical officer in charge of civil and mental hospitals in 1928, and later medical officer in charge of the Mental Hospital and Tsan Yuk Hospital in 1937. He also served as medical officer at the Queen Mary Hospital, and as visiting medical officer to the Chinese hospitals and dispensaries. He was designated Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1941, and became Officer in that Order in 1946. His prime interest in life has been to practice medicine among the poor. At the age of 72 he still actively practices in the Tung Wah Hospital, and also attends clinical activities of all kinds in the Queen Mary Hospital. Next year he will be studying his own Golden Jubilee in that he will by then have completed fifty years of service with the Tung Wah Hospital.

In University teaching he has shown an astonishing versatility, taking on part-time assignments as tutor, demonstrator, or lecturer in a wide variety of subjects, in the course of which he has, incidentally, taught the three other medical graduates of the University who have been honoured today. From 1915 to 1918, and again from 1936 to 1937, he was teaching pharmacology, vaccination and anaesthetics; from 1919 to 1921, obstetrics; in 1922, tropical medicine and parasitology; in 1925, ophthalmology; in 1938, mental diseases; and, lastly, in the early fifties, a year’s demonstrating in anatomy, and two year’s lecturing in clinical surgery. To this academic kaleidoscope he could well add philosophy; there is no cause for doubting this Thomas’s ability to lecture on his own brand of Thomasism.

Citation written and delivered by Professor D Barker, MA, DPhil, the Public Orator of the University.

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