Citations and Speeches


124th Congregation (1985)

Edward Hamilton PATERSON
O.B.E., M.B.B.S., F.R.C.S.

The Public Orator Professor Francis Charles Timothy Moore, M.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:

Mr. Chancellor, it is a paradox of British Imperial power that many of its agents were not from the English heartlands, but came from parts of the British Isles which had themselves suffered a kind of colonial subjection by the English. You yourself, Mr. Chancellor, I believe, come from what is still the Principality of Wales. But Scotland too was a great source of colonial administrators, entrepreneurs, and missionaries, a fact well marked in the history of Hong Kong. And Scottish traditions of independence of mind, rectitude, religious non-conformism and good works are well represented in Edward Hamilton Paterson. His great-grandfather had four sons, all of whom became ministers. And his own father, the first doctor in the family, was a missionary who ran hospitals in China. The poet Horace wrote: 'Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt', 'People who go overseas have a change of climate, not a change of soul'. Mr. Chancellor, whether or not this is true in general, it is certainly the case that these same Scottish values were transposed (not imposed but represented) in those difficult times in China. One of Dr. Paterson's earliest memories of this period of the Warlords was having to escape from the brigands as they set fire to the town. But still the work went on of trying to heal and help people who otherwise might have been short of a cure or lacking in help.

Dr. Paterson's early memories were not all so dramatic or problematic. The happier rural scenes of his childhood still live in his mind. He also remembers as a very small boy being taken to Hankow to attend a performance of 'The Pirates of Penzance'. He tells how the pirates on stage frightened him so much that he had to be taken out of the theatre.

The young Paterson could not stay indefinitely amid these scenes: a wider education was in store. At a quite early age, he went to primary school in Shanghai, and then was sent Britain in 1931, where he studied at school in London, before attending the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, from which he graduated in 1943. He then worked in London hospitals for some years, and obtained his F.R.C.S. in 1948.

With this training, Dr. Paterson was well fitted to take up work similar to that of his father. Appointed to China in 1949 by the London Missionary Society, he went to Beijing for language study, and later to Tianjin as a surgeon. But though there were no longer any Warlords, it was not a time in China which was propitious for foreign workers, especially under the aegis of a missionary society. So Tianjin's loss was Hong Kong's gain, as Dr. Paterson came to Hong Kong thirty-four years ago, in 1,951, and took up his post as Senior Surgeon in the Nethersole Hospital.

Mr. Chancellor, many a doctor spends a whole useful lifetime doing good work for mankind within the walls of a hospital, and certainly Dr. Paterson has done more than his share of such work. But he never believed in the traditional approach to the role of the hospital in the community. He has persistently Advocated and advanced the concept of the 'hospital without walls'. He believes that a hospital should not be a world to itself, a prison-like institution with its independent identity and character which the population round about would avoid and fear, or enter only in extremis, as into a strange and sinister land. Its work rather is, in the most mundane and best sense, people's health, and its services should extend right to the domestic hearth, just as the community itself should extend itself right to the bedside of the patient who needs to be put in a hospital bed.

But to advance these beliefs, Dr. Paterson had to fight many a battle. Bureaucratic inertia could at times be as threatening as a harmful microorganism. When he first proposed his schemes of community nursing, believing that nurses should not only perform the multifarious services which are an essential and worthy part of hospital care, but also go to people's homes, to help, advise and care for them there, he was told that this was not a feasible approach. Nurses who went out into the streets would be strange and vulnerable creatures, he was told: they would not be let into people's homes; they would probably be raped.

But Dr. Paterson persevered. He obtained outside funds for community nursing, and when it was seen to succeed, the Government did in the end accept the scheme, which has now become a model of good practice, and has been one big step to putting into reality Dr. Paterson's ideal of the hospital without walls.

The importance of this pioneering work in community medicine is difficult to over estimate. It is true that there were previous schemes in which communities were encouraged to take a responsibility for their own health, but up to this time, these had always been rural communities. Dr. Paterson was a pioneer in recognizing the importance of developing such schemes in the city environments in which more and more of our fellow human beings are now living. So Dr. Paterson - and Hong Kong - became pioneers of an approach to health in cities which is now spreading throughout the world.

Such enterprise is not uncharacteristic of the Scottish genius, not uncharacteristic of the London Missionary Society (now the Council for World Mission). Dr. Paterson is a Senior Missionary of this Society, and regularly attends services of a Chinese speaking congregation. But he is reticent in the expression of his own beliefs, holding that the mark of a missionary is to help in everything, but not to impose anything.

It is not possible in a short time to do justice to everything Dr. Paterson has achieved for individuals and for communities in Hong Kong by often painstaking, sometimes mundane and always devoted work over the last thirty-four years. I may of course point out that for most of the past twenty-two years, Dr. Paterson' has been the Medical Superintendent of Nethersole Hospital. I may mention his role as Medical Superintendent of the United Christian Hospital. I can remind you that for thirty years, he has been a Board member of the Junk Bay Medical Relief Council, and for six years he has been a member of the Medical Development Advisory Committee. In 1978, he was appointed Justice of the Peace, and in recognition of his services to the community he received an O.B.E. in 1979.

Mr. Chancellor, Voltaire wrote: "Est-il rien de plus estimable au monde qu'un medecin qui, ayant dans sa jeunesse etudie la nature, connu le ressorts du corps humain, les maux qui le tourmentent. les re'medes qui peuvent le soulager, exerce son art en s'en defiant, soigne e'galement les pauvres et les riches, ne report d' honoraires qu'a regret, et emploie ces honorakes a secourir l'indigent". - "Nothing in the world is more estimable than a doctor, who, having studied nature in his youth, having learnt the way the human body works, the ills that torment it and the remedies which may relieve it, exercises his art with proper scepticism, cares equally for rich and poor, receives payment only with regret, and employs it for the help of the needy".

There can be little doubt, Mr. Chancellor, that Voltaire would have found the unpretentious greatness of which he spoke amply exemplified in the life of Dr. Paterson.

Hippocrates, the father of medical science, wrote: "The right moment occurs in time - but the right moment does not leave us very much time". It is the right moment, Mr. Chancellor, in honour, of his services to the community in the fields of medicine and nursing in Hong Kong, for me to present to you Edward Hamilton Paterson, O.B.E., J.P., missionary from Scotland but son of Chinese soil, surgeon and committee man, a man of rectitude but humility, imagination but patience, humane physician, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Social Sciences, honoris causa.