How HKUMed’s Dean of Medicine Recovered From His ‘Darkest Hour’
Professor CS Lau, Dean of Medicine, explained how moments of luck, failures and the power of empathy can play pivotal roles in a doctor’s training as he shared his personal story with first-year medical students.
Speaking to HKUMed’s largest class of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Science (MBBS) students to date on their first day, the rheumatologist described how challenges allow aspiring medics to learn.
“You might actually encounter times when you feel a bit disappointed, times when you feel a little bit of a failure,” he said. “What I would like to say to you, is that this is really part of the growth as a medical student and eventually of course as a doctor.”
Professor Lau, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, explained to the new cohort how his path to becoming a doctor was littered with obstacles.
He recounted that as a teenager, he blindly followed his sister to the UK where he studied A-Levels at a college which lacked rigour and offered little career advice. It was only after receiving his results that he belatedly realised his academic ability and applied to medical schools following a gap year.
However, one chilly April morning after travelling overnight by train to the University of Dundee for what he thought would be his only medical school interview, he discovered the invitation had been made in error.
“I describe it as being my darkest hour… I was totally devastated,” he said. “For the next couple of weeks I was finished as a person, there were no other offers from any other medical schools.”
Despite the initial disappointment, less than a month later he received a call offering him a place to study medicine at the university based on his participation in the informal university tour.
Professor Lau also shared how the offer of a job as a research officer in rheumatology encouraged him to pursue a specialty he had originally dismissed for its limited treatment options for patients.
“No one really wanted to do rheumatology at that time, but I learnt that despite there being no drugs, if I actually spent time with [patients], listening to their pain, listening to their stories it actually helped their symptoms a lot,” he said.
He added that there has been a “renaissance” in the specialism thanks to a greater understanding of autoimmune rheumatic disorders and the development of new drugs.
Professor Lau reminded the new students that the Faculty wants them to feel supported and happy during their time at HKUMed, and encouraged them to reach out to their advisers, mentors and tutors in times of need.
“I offer an open door to all of you, you can write to me,” he said in closing. “You can knock on my door any time if you encounter any problems.”