Professor Anna Lok is an eminent hepatologist whose work on liver diseases has gained global recognition. She is also a very compassionate and caring person. As an alumna of this University, we are rightly immensely proud of her.
Anna completed her primary and secondary schooling at Sacred Heart Canossian College and her Form 6 education at King's College, where she was the only girl in a class of thirty-two students! She tells me that, when she informed her father that she was interested in becoming a doctor, her father suggested that medicine was a discipline for men and she should apply to the school of nursing instead. Happily, she did not follow his advice and, I am pleased to report, her father was extremely delighted when she was accepted by this University to read Medicine. She graduated as the most outstanding student of her year.
Having secured her medical qualification, her first rotation at Queen Mary Hospital was gastroenterology and she reveals that she very soon recognised that she wanted to specialise in hepatology.
Having completed her training at the Royal Free Hospital in London in 1983, Anna returned to Hong Kong to teach at this University until 1992 when she moved to Tulane University of New Orleans as Chief of Hepatology. In 1995 she left Louisiana to take up the post of Professor of Medicine and Director of Hepatology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Anna's research focuses on the natural history and treatment of hepatitis B and C and the prevention of liver cancer. She was the inventor of the AST to Platelet Ratio and the Lok Indices, some of the first non-invasive methods to determine the presence of advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis. That has benefited innumerable patients and its utility can be demonstrated by the fact that the World Health Organization and numerous research groups around the world have adopted them into their staging algorithms.
Being at the forefront of research into the effects of antiviral therapy for hepatitis B, Anna was author of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases Hepatitis B Guidelines which are used by medical professionals all over the world. She was also instrumental in helping the World Health Organization develop the first hepatitis B and hepatitis C guidelines which are specifically designed for countries where no national guidelines exist or where there are no regional liver associations issuing recommendations for diagnosis and treatment. Her impact has indeed been global.
Anna has published more than 450 papers on viral hepatitis and liver diseases and has been recognized by Thomson Reuters as a top 1% most cited researcher from 2002-2012.
For her outstanding work she has received many awards including the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Hepatitis B Foundation, the Distinguished Women Scientist Award from the American Gastroenterological Association in 2008, the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease in 2011, the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Liver Foundation in 2015 and the Beaumont Prize in Gastroenterology from the American Gastroenterological Association in 2016. She is currently President of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, only the fourth woman to hold that position in the Society's nearly seventy year history. I now want to turn to her impact on her junior colleagues and students. She is clearly a very caring doctor and mentor.
To her junior colleagues (whom she often refers to as her 'professional children') she has said:
I have had my share of successes and failures - this is life. It is important that young people realize that those of us who have made it had our struggles and our failures also. So do not feel discouraged when things are not going your way. It is important to remember that our journey in life and our career is a marathon and not a sprint; there will be ups and downs and those who persevere will reach their destination. I am most proud of all the fellows and junior faculty I have trained ... It is extremely gratifying to see that many of my mentees are now full Professors and heads of department, to read their work in scientific journals and to hear their lectures at scientific meetings.
And as for their relationship with patients she has advised:
We can help others and make a big impact on their health ... Recognise the impact of every little thing you do on your patients' and their families' lives. Understand how privileged you are. While we cannot be perfect, we can and should always try our best. Also remember that medicine is not just a science, it is also an art. Even when our hands are tied and modern medicine cannot save our patient's life, we can still make a difference by being compassionate and understanding ... Learn how to communicate and how to listen; and always imagine if you or your loved one is on the other side in the consulting room.
When introducing Anna as the new President of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases her introducer Dr Grace Su, who has worked with Anna for more than twenty years, said:
Anna has all the 'right stuff' to make her a successful President including fantastic organisational and administrative skills, unparalleled work ethic and extensive research, teaching and mentoring experience that she unselfishly and skillfully shares with others ... Her unwavering passion to improve the care of patients with liver disease worldwide ... will benefit all members of society.
We are very privileged today to express our gratitude to one of our most outstanding former students who has become an exemplary researcher and clinician. She has certainly made a very significant difference to the lives of innumerable sufferers around the globe and her positive impact will undoubtedly continue well into the future.
It is my honour and privilege to present to you Professor Anna Lok Suk Fong for the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.
Citation written and delivered by Professor Michael Wilkinson, the Public Orator of the University.