Opening Ceremony of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences and the Li Ka Shing Medical Sciences Building at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

07 September 2007

Chairman Wu, Chairman Cheng, Vice-Chancellor Lau, Dean Fok, Director Lo, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you. It is an honor to be here with men and women dedicated to the defense of health and to the well-being of mankind. I read in an article that Louis Pasteur once appealed to Napoleon III that, “Physicists and chemists without laboratories are like soldiers without arms on the battlefield.”

What was true then, is even more important now. As a result of rapid progress in biotechnology, a restructuring process is underway worldwide, setting the stage for competition and advancement in the health sciences and health care industries.

The innovative nature of drug research and development to decipher and utilize advanced knowledge from the broad spectrum of life sciences research relies heavily on intense collaboration between industry and academia. It depends on far-sighted investment as well as resources and policy support from the government.

These factors are critical if we want to capitalize on the momentum in this industry and participate in the global competition.

I know that the research work now underway at this institute will play a role in advancing effective treatment for challenging illness. There are genius and innovation, here. But saving a life takes more than that. It requires knowledge and an empathy for those who are ill. There is an understanding that being ill is a lonely journey. Even when a friend or relative says to the patient, “I know how you feel,” we know that in reality no one truly understands the isolation and uncertainty of illness. No one can truly empathize with the unyielding pain.

We must strive to be intuitive and empathetic. We must try to understand. We may know how to diagnose and what to prescribe, but do we know how to explain it? We can treat the symptoms and the illness, but do we feel the needs of the patient? We can recite scientific terminology, but can we communicate in a way that the patient understands – bringing relevance and courage in a time of weakness and vulnerability?

Louis Pasteur is recognized as a man whose works improved life’s lot for generations. Amongst his numerous stories, this particularly touches the heart: when news of Pasteur’s effective antidote for rabies swept the world, out of the 350 cases he successfully treated, Pasteur still made an effort for a ten-year-old little girl whose case was too advanced for a cure. Against hope, Pasteur looked for a miracle, but his efforts were in vain.

As the little girl died, the scientist held her hand, and with tears in his eyes told her parents, “ I did so wish I could have saved your little one.”

It is my hope that we see compassion as something beyond feeling – that we see it coupled with a sense of duty to each other. In this way, we will be more aware of others – of their perspective – and we will strive to do what is appropriate and right.

No doubt, this is a much heavier burden, but there is no more important work than serving others. And nothing is more fulfilling. You have done well and I am sure that together we will do even better.

Thank you.