30 Jun 2011


Shortly after the examination, I was asked to take care of several students who had failed. The remedial attachment provided an opportunity for them to learn more clinical medicine. Tutors had to decide whether the students need to repeat the year of study afterwards. I personally did not have any negative feelings against those young people, but Warren and a few colleagues kept urging me to fail them.

Following their feedback, I observed the students more closely. The time they spent in the ward was reasonable. But one thing was weird. The only place they stayed at was the nursing station. They opened the case records, flipped through the pages and jotted notes here and there. They looked more like the girl with the dragon tattoo than doctors.

That reminded me of a story that many from my generation knew.

Boss was a hard-working person. He conducted ward round every day at 08:30, sometimes earlier. When Y was his trainee, he went to work at 08:25 and had to finish seeing 10 to 15 patients before Boss arrived. To his credit, he managed to write one full page of medical notes for each patient.

But when the old ladies tried to describe their symptoms, Y always made his famous reply, “Don’t disturb. The doctor is conducting ward round.”

23 Jun 2011


Shortly before the final professional examination, our Chairman asked us for questions to be used in the viva voce examination. (See http://ccszeto.blogspot.com/2011/05/viva.html for details.)

Being the most junior teaching staff, I was not in the original communication list. Soon, however, I received copies of e-mail answers from two of my friends.

“Please ask VW.”

“I recommend VW. He is our walking Harrison.”

Preparing the questions was a piece of cake. I got it done in fifteen minutes. I could also understand that the overstatement was just out of politeness. However, I still felt uneasy. Walking Harrison used to be the term to describe our Boss and Szeto. How could I share the title with the giants?

On second thought, it really depends on which edition of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine one is referring to. The giants represent the 8th and 10th editions, while the one I read was the 14th edition. Surely they are not comparable.

Having said that, I was happier when the young neurologist called me walking wikipedia a few years ago. It felt just right – appears to know a lot of things but not really accurate.

16 Jun 2011


Last Saturday was our Faculty's 30th anniversary. I had the pleasure to accompany Professor AL at the celebration dinner. She told me a short story alongside with many other interesting matters.

Years ago, she went for training in England. On the first day, her mentor asked, "What project do you plan to do here?"

Being very green, she frankly admitted that she had not had a plan yet and would like to seek his guidance.

To her surprise, the Godfather sent her away. "The library is on the second floor. Come back when you know something."

When I shared the story with my teammates, they all felt the mentor was very cool and encouraged me to tell the medical students the same thing. After all, our medical library was also on the second floor.

I shook the attractive idea off immediately. "These will probably be my last words in the university."

It goes without saying that Professor AL went on to become an independent researcher and one of the greatest leaders in the field. Can we build leaders from refresher courses and examination notes?

9 Jun 2011

Amah Rock

There is a storytelling competition at Angelina's kindergarten every year. On the last two occasions, she told the stories of Three Little Pigs and Mickey and the Beanstalk. This time, she announced that since she was already in the graduation class, she would tell a grown-up story. Her first choice was Romeo and Juliet, which was banned by Mummy at once. She offered another story from the Greek myths. Mummy disapproved as well. "This is horrible!" Reluctantly, she chose Twelve Dancing Princesses, and had to skip the part about the beheaded princes.

A week later, she had her consolation. She told her Mummy a new story.

Once upon a time, there was a family in Shatin. The father often went abroad to do business. When he was away, the mother would carry her baby on her back and go up a hill. Looking far, she wanted to see her husband as soon as he returned.

For some unknown reasons, the father never returned this time. The mother did not give up. She kept going up the hill everyday. She stood all day long, carrying her baby.

Many months later, the mother went up the hill as usual. To her surprise, another woman was standing there. When she came closer, she found that the woman was a monstrous beast. She had snakes instead of hair on her head. It was Medusa! The monster turned and looked straight at her eyes. Instantly, the mother and the baby were turned to stones.

And they became the Amah Rock.

2 Jun 2011


How would you express your admiration to somebody?

In 1877, Nadezhda von Meck sent Pyotr Tchaikovsky the first letter, addressing herself as a fervent admirer. Soon, she became Tchaikovsky's most important benefactor, providing him with 6000 rubles a year. However, she had one most peculiar request - they were never to meet in person. On two occasions, they accidentally met in public. They pretended not to know each other and did not talk. Tchaikovsky immediately sent a letter on the next day, apologizing for 'offending' her.

Their relationship, however, was anything but distant. Over 13 years, they exchanged over 1200 letters. Both frankly revealed their deepest emotional turmoil and provided encouragement to each other. The relationship ended sadly with Nadezhda going into bankruptcy in 1890 and the composer's death 3 years later.

We could only guess why they chose not to meet. Most likely, the lady wished to maintain a certain fantasy.

But love is not about fantasy. It is a process of understanding and acceptance. Eleven years ago, I sent my first e-mail as a fervent admirer. Instead of offering half of my salary (which would come later), I asked for a date. We never managed to reach the restaurant among unfamiliar streets and had to resort to a Pizza Hut on the road side. This is probably called adventure.

Happy Anniversary, meine liebe kleine Frau!