Citations and Speeches


133rd Congregation (1988)

George CHOA
O.B.E.,. O.St.J., M.B., B.S., D.L.O., F.R.C.S.E., F.R.A.C.S., J.P.

Before you stands an otorhinolaryngologist of international repute. I realize that public orators are meant to have a penchant for the classical and even the obscure, and otorhinolaryngology is an ancient and classical name for a well-established surgical specialty in Medicine. However, I am pleased that Dr. Choa has indicated that he is perfectly happy to allow me to use the English version for his chosen profession, when the English words 'ear, nose and throat' happily become the familiar abbreviation 'ENT'.

George Choa was born in Hong Kong in 1921, the tenth child in a family of twelve children. Evidently there were aspects of this world to which this tenth child took exception, for within the Choa family he was known, I am sure, with great affection. Putting this reputation for crying behind him, he proceeded through the Hong Kong education system to enter the University of Hong Kong from St. Joseph's College in 1939. He was of course entering the Faculty of Medicine at the start of a period of turmoil for Hong Kong, and George Choa is one of the group of students who, with some of their teachers, had to leave Hong Kong at the time of the Occupation and to continue their miedical studies in China. These studies took place under the auspices of the Yale in China Medical School, and for four years from 1942 George Choa and his fellow students were to spend their time not only in their medical studies, but also in moving before the advance of the Japanese forces, from Kwaiyang to Chungking and finally to Changsha in Hunan province.

Following his return to Hong Kong, and the award of the M.B.,B.S. degrees of this University in 1947, the young Dr. Choa quickly gravitated to the world of surgery, the subject in which he had excelled as an undergraduate. After his internships, he joined the Government Medical Services and, as he progressed through the ranks, he spent periods of time, initially in the United Kingdom, undergoing postgraduate training leading to higher diplomas of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons there. It was during one of these periods, when Dr. Choa was at the University of Edinburgh, that the seeds of his future specialization may have been sown, for Dr. Choa spent part of his years in Scotland working under Dr. Simpson-Hall, then the senior ENT consultant at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and one of the world pioneers in Otologic Surgery. Thus, when the Hong Kong Government sought those who would ultimately be trained in one of four specialties, General Surgery, Thoracic Surgery, Urology and ENT Surgery, it was natural that George Choa should opt for ENT surgery. He then became one of the first four Hong Kong University graduates in Medicine to become a specialist in the Medical Department of Government, returning from the Institute of Laryngology and Otology of the University of London with his Diploma in that field in 1958.

Thereupon Dr. Choa began his long period of distinguished service to his profession, to his specialty and to the community in Hong Kong. Within his profession and specialty he served as Government ENT specialist mainly at the Queen Mary Hospital for 16 years before moving into the private sector and he has been Honorary Consultant to the Tung Wah Hospitals for 25 years. He remembers the time many years ago when the cry of the surgeon for more light when performing intricate ENT procedures resulted in the operating staff producing an electric torch. At his instigation, the very first operating microscope was obtained for the Tung Wah Hospital, which remained operational even 20 years later. He introduced the subject of ENT treatment to successive generations of medical students in this University as Honorary Lecturer in the Department of Surgery since 1955. You may imagine, Mr. Chancellor, the pleasure he takes in having seen his subject area grow to such an extent that there is now a Chair of ENT Surgery at this University.

His knowledge and skills have been recognized by many professional organizations, including the American College of Surgeons which elected him to Fellowship in 1962, and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons which elected him Fellow in 1983. He was responsible for the founding of the ENT Society here in Hong Kong in 1967. Perhaps, not surprisingly, at that time, with only three members, they should all have been officials, one the President, one the Secretary and one the Treasurer, though one suspects that the office of Treasurer could hardly have been an onerous one then. Now the Society has grown ten-fold and will be the host organization of the 7th Asia-Oceanic Federation of ENT Societies when its Congress comes to Hong Kong in 199l. Dr. Choa is presently the President of that Federation, and in the past he has been, amongst other things, President of the Hong Kong Medical Association and the Hong Kong Branch of the British Medical Association. It might take the judgement of Solomon to weigh these professional achievements against the contributions George Choa has made to this community, contributions he has made as an individual and also through many and varied organizations in Hong Kong. High on this list must go his sustained and continuing efforts on the part of the deaf. Deafness is an affliction that can so easily be overlooked: often without immediately obvious external signs of the lack of hearing or impaired hearing, those so handicapped can at times engender little sympathy and concern. Yet the impact of deafness must be apparent to us all, especially when considering its effects upon the emotional and educational development of young children. The Hong Kong Society for the Deaf was established in 1968 with the entirely laudable aims of promoting the welfare of the hearing handicapped and seeking that every person so affected in the community would have the same quality of services available to any other person in the community. George Choa was Chairman from 1974 to 1979, and he saw the struggle to bring into existence the first of the Society's centres in Sai Ying Pun. It opened in 1976 and is primarily for pre-school children between two and six years of age. The teaching programmes are fundamental to giving these children a proper chance to communicate and to be educated, and this involves in large measure not only the teaching of the children but also the counselling of the children's parents and families to be part of the training process. This family involvement very much follows the precepts of the internationally renowned Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles, a facility with which Dr. Choa has close affiliations. Recently, permission has been given to have the Tracy Clinic teaching programmes translated into Chinese and these will be distributed through the Hong Kong Society for the Deaf, which now has a number of Centres in this Territory. There is a phenomenon in the ENT world, Mr. Chancellor, which is again most often referred to by its initials - NIHL. It relates to one of the causes of deafness or impaired hearing; it is something that concerned Dr. Choa, and I suspect it is a matter with which a great many residents of this dynamic and developing community can identify, not least on this very campus with all its new buildings in various stages of construction. NIHL is Noise Induced Hearing Loss, and George Choa was, in the early years of this decade, a member of the Special Committee on Noise of the Environmental Protection Advisory Committee. Although this Special Committee has since been abolished, there has been agreement that damage due to Noise Induced Hearing Loss may be regarded as an industrial injury meriting compensation, as in many other countries. There are other connections which Dr. Choa has had, over the years, with Government bodies, including the Rehabilitation Development Coordinating Committee for nine years, during which period he acted as Chairman of its Access and Transport Subcommittee from 1983 to 1986.

If his efforts on behalf of the deaf and his efforts towards noise abatement must feature high upon the list of George Choa's contributions to this community, they would be but a nose ahead of his involvement in something which at one time or another can affect each and everyone of us, and that is the promotion of training in first aid. Dr. Choa has had links with the Hong Kong Red Cross in the past, but is now most closely associated with the St. John Ambulance Association and Brigade. He became an Officer of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1985 and, last year, Your Excellency appointed him Chairman of the Council of St. John in Hong Kong. One of his current projects is to find financial support which would enable the Association to promote basic first aid for all in Chinese through the use of the mass media in Hong Kong, and it is rumoured that he is close to clinching that deal. Through the Rotary Movement, Dr. Choa has also been successful in helping others. He served as President of the Hong Kong Rotary Club from, 1971 to 1972, but it was during his District Governorship later that decade that a scheme was I established through Rotary International which brings volunteer physicians and dentists to provide health care in the Vietnamese refugee camps in Hong Kong.

It is clear that it is my privilege to present to you, Mr. Chancellor, not just the doyen of the world of otorhinolaryngology in Hong Kong, but also a humanitarian who has given long service in many and several ways to various segments of society here. It is for both these reasons that this University seeks to honour Dr. George Choa. Dr. Choa is an ENT surgeon who never aspired to academia, yet he has taught medical students for some 30 years and he has served this University as a member of Court and Council; he was a one time tennis champion of the University of Hong Kong, but now is a more familiar figure upon the courses of the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club and even the hallowed greens of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews; an Officer at different times of many philanthropic societies who has aided the handicapped and the deaf in this community; a Justice of the Peace since 1977 and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire since 1982 - I present Dr. George Choa for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Citation written and delivered by Professor William Ian Rees Davies, the Public Orator.

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