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Professor ZHONG Nanshan

73rd Congregation (2013)

Professor ZHONG Nanshan
Doctor of Science


As a great medical practitioner, he marshalled the fight against a lethal epidemic. He demonstrates not only miraculous skills but also a kind heart towards patients and enthusiasm in passing the torch. In his remarkable achievements, he is an inspiration to his fellow countrymen. This South Mountain (Nanshan) of Guangdong has dwarfed the famous Five Great Mountains of China - his contributions to medicine would put even the legendary doctor Bian Que to shame!


Professor Zhong Nanshan is the leader of medical science in Guangdong and an advocate of clinical and technological research. Between 1992 and 2002, he was the President of Guangzhou Medical College, as well as an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering from 1996. He is currently Professor of Medicine at Guangzhou Medical University, Director of the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease and Director of the State Clinical Research Centre of Respiratory Disease.


A native of Xiamen, Fujian Province, Professor Zhong was born in Nanjing in 1936 before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war. His father, Mr Zhong Shifan, was a professor at the Sun Yatsen University of Medical Science, and both of his parents studied abroad. Under their influence, Professor Zhong Nanshan developed a keen interest in medicine at an early age. He studied in Peking University Medical School in 1955 and graduated in 1960. His graduation coincided with dramatic political and social changes, prompting him to take part in a variety of activities while practicing medicine. Of this time, he said, “I’ve been a farmer, a worker in the propaganda team, a worker in the kitchen, and an editor for the medical journal of Peking University... I’ve done everything.” These hardships and unusual experiences turned out to be a blessing in disguise, becoming the motivation behind his exceptional career of medical practice, teaching and research.


In 1971, Professor Zhong went back to Guangzhou, embarking on medical and scientific research that would eventually turn him into an expert in respiratory diseases. Between 1979 and 1981, he studied at the medical schools of Edinburgh University and London University to hone his respiratory studies and research. During the time, his passion for research and his determination, as well as his relentless pursuit of the truth through experimentation, impressed all around him, including his British tutors, fellow researchers and friends.


When he returned to China, Professor Zhong decided to devote himself to clinical practice, teaching and the scientific research of respiratory diseases. He spearheaded a number of highly successful scientific research projects, including the “973 Programme”, the “863 Programme”, Key Science and Technology Programs in the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Five-year Plans, and several key programmes under the National Natural Science Foundation. To date, he has published over 50 papers in reputable international journals, including Nature Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, British Medical Journal, and American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In 2008, his paper in the Lancet on the effect of carbocisteine on acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease won him critical acclaim on the international medical scene. He has also published more than 200 papers in state-level journals, cementing his status as a leading figure in the field of respiratory medicine in China. He has 16 books and nine patents to his name, in addition to over 20 technological achievement awards, including the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award second-class and third-class, First Prize in the Guangdong Science and Technology Awards, the Ho Leung Ho Lee Award and the Wu Yang Award for Special Contributions. He was also conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh and the University of Birmingham in 2007 and 2011 respectively.


Professor Zhong is best known for his contribution in leading the Chinese medical team to combat SARS in 2003. Ten years ago this spring, this deadly virus of unknown origin ravaged China and held Hong Kong under siege. Without an effective cure, the disease spread quickly over a broad area. The threat of death swept through Hong Kong, mainland China and beyond, putting people all over the world in a state of fear and panic. Men of science rose to the occasion to fight the disease. Hong Kong is proud of the “SARS Hero” Professor Joseph Sung; in mainland China, Professor Zhong was dubbed the “Foremost Contributor against SARS.” He proposed the “three earlys and three propers” - early diagnosis, early quarantine, and early treatment. The results were extraordinary. Many were dragged back from the brink of death. Society praised Professor Zhong for his bravery in putting his own life on the line during the crisis. Professor Zhong laughed this off. “This is our job - if we don’t do it, who will?” Under the leadership of Professor Zhong and his medical team, Guangdong Province achieved two bests in the country: the lowest SARS mortality rate and the highest cure rate. In June 2003, Guangdong Province hosted an event to recognise the heroes of the fight against SARS, and Professor Zhong was the only recipient of the Top Merit award. In the same year, he was made a National May Day Labor Medalist, awarded the Bethune Medal and cited as one of the “People Who Moved China” 2003. In 2009 and this very year, he was again at the medical frontline, leading a team in the fight against H1N1 and H7N9 diseases. Though 77 years old, he led by example and showed no signs of weariness.


In addition to his outstanding achievements in medical practice, scientific research and efforts against epidemics, Professor Zhong is a tremendous teacher and professor with high moral standards, and has won the Best Teaching Award in Guangdong for a number of years in a row. He won the Huayuan Medical Ethics Award in 2003. He was awarded in 2007 the National Moral Models, and in 2009 the higher education Teaching Masters Award and the National Award for Achievements in Teaching. In teaching his students, he stresses the importance of medical ethics, which he summarises as “finding the best possible ways to solve patients’ difficulties.” His “Nanshan-style” focuses on dedication, exploration, research and cooperation. As a doctor, professor and scientific researcher, he dedicates his efforts to serving society and speaking out against injustice, while staying innovative, professional and independent.


Professor Zhong worked closely with the Faculty of Medicine of The Chinese University of

Hong Kong, especially in the areas of SARS prevention and control, as well as in researching drug resistant tuberculosis. He was the Sir Run Run Shaw Distinguished Visiting Scholar of Shaw College, CUHK, and discussed his experience in combating SARS with our fellow colleagues and students.


Professor Zhong shares CUHK's educational philosophy and is a keen supporter of the University’s development in mainland China. In 2009, CUHK began exploring the possibility of a campus in Shenzhen, hoping to take the institution's core educational philosophy and values to the mainland. In March 2013, a final agreement was signed with the Shenzhen Municipal Government and Shenzhen University. The Governing Board of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen was also founded, with Professor Zhong as a member, which will help to lead the University towards a fruitful future.


Mr Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of Professor Zhong’s contributions to the fight against SARS, and his illustrious achievements in the advancement of medical science, technological research and education, I have the great honour of presenting to you Professor Zhong Nanshan for the award of the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.