Citations and Speeches

Citations

81st Congregation (1972)

Daphne CHUN Wai Chan
O.B.E., M.B.B.S.(H.K.), F.R.C.S.E., F.R.C.O.G.

The Public Orator Professor Leonard Kenneth Young, B.A., M.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:

When Professor Chun retired in June the University bade farewell to an obstetrician and gynaecologist of the first order, to a devoted teacher and to a warm-hearted and sparkling personality.

She is in every sense a Hong Kong belonger, born here and educated at St Stephen's Girls' College. She did not proceed directly into the University, but once she entered the medical school, it was clear that she had made the right choice, for she gained the prizes in Anatomy and Physiology and also in the Final Year. If there is a tendency to undervalue the importance of the basic sciences in the training of a practical doctor, it receives no support from a study of Professor Chun's career. To ensure that childbirth is physiological is the ideal of all obstetricians, but Professor Chun's research work on hormonal aspects of disorders of pregnancy has required more than a general background in the subject. It is no accident that the youthful prize-winner in Anatomy gave place in turn to the Demonstrator in Anatomy at London University to the author of research on the anatomy of the female pelvis and to our Professor of Obstetrics known throughout the world as one of the most skilful of pelvic surgeons.

To graduate, as Professor Chun did in 1940 in Hong Kong, was to face a troubled world. At first all went smoothly and in 1941 she became second assistant in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Unit of the University but soon, like many of her contemporaries, she left Hong Kong for the mainland. From 1942-1943 she was Medical Officer in charge of the Maternity Hospital, Chungking. Perhaps this experience impressed on her the need to become well trained if one is to make the best of one's talents in a medical specialty. At any rate she proceeded to do so most effectively and began by flying 'over the hump' to India by a Chinese transport plane and taking passage to England by ship in convoy. Letters from Professor Gordon King had prepared the way and three days after arriving in London she started on a series of posts in London County Council and other hospitals which occupied the next six years. Perhaps the most rewarding of these was her appointment at Queen Charlotte's Hospital as House Obstetrician. She sought not only a first class training in obstetrics and gynaecology but a training also in surgery as good as that required of a general surgeon. So it came about that she passed the Fellowship examination of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh at a time when others might have thought she need not have put herself to that test. Insistence on good surgical technique is one of the ways in which gynaecology has been raised to its present high quality and it is natural to find that Professor Chun's standing in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is of the highest.

Since 1956, appointments in Professor Chun's department have been recognized as suitable training posts for membership of the College and she is herself an examiner for the College. This year in September the first part of the College Membership examination will be held in Hong Kong, a testimony to the high standards in training and in patient care to be found in the units under her charge.

To have maintained and enhanced the high reputation of the teaching units in the Queen Mary and Tsari Yuk Hospitals in this way has demanded patience, a practical assessment of possibilities, persistence and determination. All these Professor Chun possesses, but a basic toughness of fibre is mingled with a humanity of approach, nowhere better seen than in the entertainments she evidently enjoys so much.

Her staff, colleagues and friends have happy memories of her benign pleasure as the host of some sumptuous repast. In the hot-house atmosphere of a large general teaching hospital she has succeeded in maintaining an equable microclimate in which teaching and research have flourished and the art has prospered. Professor Chun has commanded the devoted loyalty of all her staff and has retained the affection in later life of the many obstetricians and gynaecologists she has trained. So many of those practising obstetrics and gynaecology in Hong Kong today have passed through her hands that she has made a vast contribution to the improvement of medical care in the Colony in this way alone. If the number of such well trained people is relatively high today in Hong Kong, this is due, in no small part, to Professor Chun's determination in obtaining an adequate number of trainee posts.

Her daily peregrination between the Queen Mary and the Tsan Yuk has made her car very familiar on the Pokfulam Road, even when it was difficult to perceive the driver in the larger models. The work of the two hospitals is mingled in their teaching. Tsan Yuk Hospital has however, more of a family atmosphere than its larger sister up the hill. Professor Chun has been thoroughly at home there too. The Jubilee of the hospital was celebrated shortly before her retirement and it has given her the greatest pleasure to be able to participate in the celebrations while still in office. Her first acquaintance with the Tsan Yuk was as a student in 1938 and she has worked her way up to the top through all the intervening grades. On her return to Hong Kong in 1949 she was appointed Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the University, then Senior Lecturer and finally Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, in 1957. During this period the standard of obstetrics in the Colony as a whole, and in the Tsan Yuk in particular, has risen rapidly and impressively. From figures cited at the Jubilee celebrations, it is clear that maternal and infant mortality in Hong Kong are now as low as virtually anywhere in the world. This tremendous achievement has been made possible not only by the training of doctors but also by the training of midwives; the Tsan Yuk has played a large role in this process. As a member of the Midwives Board since 1956 as well as a teacher, Professor Chun has taken an important part in this.

It was perhaps inevitable that someone like Professor Chun, with so much experience of the teeming life of Hong Kong, should be drawn into activities for the community over and above the extensive responsibilities of her official appointment. The Eugenies League which she joined in 1940 paved the way for the formation of the Hong Kong Family Planning Association in 1952 and Professor Chun was a Founder Member of the Association. The energy and resourcefulness with which she has worked as a Chairman of sub-committees from 1952 to 1956 and since 1957 as President, have been a major element; in the Association's success in Hong Kong and its high international reputation. Professor Chun has seen the Association's work not just as an exercise in population control, however important that may be, but also as another way in which, good medical care can be extended to all in Hong Kong and she has succeeded in infusing into the Association's work as much of Hippocrates as of Malthus. In her membership of the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society, Professor Chun has been motivated by the same intention to ensure that a high standard, of diagnosis and treatment should be available wherever obstetrics and gynaecology are practised here. These activities and many like them for the public good were recognized by the University in March of this year when the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences was conferred on her (the citation was published in Vol. XIX No. 4 of the University Gazette). Her outstanding work as a citizen had been recognized before that, for she was honoured with the O.B.E. in 1963 and became a J.P. in 1964.

In her teaching, Professor Chun has encouraged her students to see obstetrics and gynaecology as an integral part of medicine and not as an esoteric field which they can safely ignore till later life when possible they might need to explore it. She has worked to provide them with a good practical experience of the subject despite the competing claims of other aspects of practice and the increasing complexity of theory. As well as anybody else, students come to appreciate sincerity of: purpose and the master touch in an expert. Successive classes of students have been exposed to these with Professor Chun as their teacher and so they have not failed to learn.

Recently with members of her staff she published the 'Practical Obstetrics: A short Textbook in English and Chinese for Students and Midwives'. Directed to medical undergraduates and midwives, based on the experience or Professor Chun's department in Hong Kong and written in the light of modern practice elsewhere, it has achieved immediate popularity; the first printing was rapidly sold out. As an aid to our own students it is invaluable, but as the first textbook of modern Western obstetrics in Chinese it is unique.

The high standing of the Medical Faculty of the University of Hong Kong in the world at large rests more on the quality of its teaching than on the volume of its contributions to research, however outstanding individual work may be. This needs no apology in an institution with a relatively small budget and an unusually heavy commitment to patient care in a large Government hospital. Under Professor Chun's direction however, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has become known widely for substantial contributions to research in the treatment of some conditions that are particularly common here. Choriocarcinoma and other trophoblastic tumours have attracted the work of successive staff members under Professor Chun's direction and this has led the department's interest into related areas of immunology and hormone work. The building of laboratories for the department in the Queen Mary Hospital recently has made this kind of work possible on a significant scale. Most medical visitors expect to hear about trophoblastic tumours when they visit her department, but equally important has been the work on neonatal jaundice and foetal distress. In bidding farewell to our Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, we were not bidding farewell to her work. She has built so well that her projects will continue to develop after her retirement. It is hard to believe either that so vital and energetic a person will not continue to be caught up for many years in some of aspects of the work and interests which have made her contribution to medicine in Hong Kong so outstanding.