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Professor YU Yue-hong Richard

70th Congregation (2011)

Professor YU Yue-hong Richard
Doctor of Social Science


The famous Song Dynasty scholar Fan Zhongyan once said, ‘If I cannot be a good minister, I would like to be a good physician.’  Like a good minister, a good physician is committed to ‘benefiting the people and remedying the world’s woes’.  A good minister runs the state by ensuring peace, security and harmony among the people.  By administering the right health regimes a good physician enhances the well-being of family and society.  To ancient Confucian scholars, dedicated ministers and physicians were equally essential to the lasting peace and well-being of the country.

Professor Yu Yue-hong Richard was born into a medical family, the second son of
Dr Yu Chiu-kwong, who had served as the Medical Superintendent of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and the Kwong Wah Hospital.  Dr Yu senior was a physician of great skill and kindness of heart, and his four sons, under his influence, all became outstanding practitioners in the medical profession.  Professor Yu’s elder brother, Dr Franklin Yu Yu-kai, was at one time the Medical Superintendent of the Precious Blood Hospital, and his younger brothers are Professor Donald Yu Yu-chiu, the chest and lung specialist, and Professor Victor Yu, a renowned authority on neonatology. 

Professor Richard Yu graduated from the University of Hong Kong with the MB BS degrees in 1958, and proceeded to London for postgraduate studies at the University College Hospital, where he obtained his PhD in 1966.  Upon returning to Hong Kong he assumed teaching duties at HKU, and received the MD degree there in 1972.  Professor Yu commenced his private practice in 1973, but his abiding interest in medical education has never waned.  At the moment he is an Honorary Professor at the Department of Medicine, HKU and at the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, CUHK, an Honorary Consultant Physician at the Ruttonjee and Princess Margaret Hospitals, a Fellow of the Academies of Medicine of Hong Kong and Singapore, and of the Royal Colleges of Physicians in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Professor Yu is a physician of profound learning and a pioneer of nephrology in Hong Kong, having established the discipline as a unit on its own in the Department of Medicine at HKU as early as the 1960s.  He is also credited with being the first physician to introduce Nephrology into Hong Kong.  He helped to found the Hong Kong Society of Nephrology in 1979 as a founding member and its Honorary Treasurer.  For half a century he spared no effort in promoting training and research work in nephrology and, in the process, earned substantial recognition from scholars around the world.  In 2006, the Hong Kong Society of Nephrology established the Richard Yu Endowment Fund in recognition of Professor Yu’s efforts over the years.  The Endowment Fund, to which Professor Yu also generously contributed, has since supported many doctors and investigators in research on renal diseases.  The medical community has long acknowledged Professor Yu’s advanced standing in his field, as well as his outstanding work in teaching and research, and has affectionately nicknamed him the ‘Godfather of Nephrology’.

Liu An, a prince who lived during the early Western Han Dynasty, compiled a book called The Huainanzi, on the art of governance and other related topics.  Liu was of the opinion that the five principal organs of the human body had their corresponding likenesses in the four elements of the climate:

 ‘Heaven has wind, rain, cold and heat;

 humans have taking, giving, joy, and anger.

 Therefore, the choleric orb parallels the clouds;

 the pulmonary orb parallels the air;

 the hepatic orb parallels the wind;

 the renal orb parallels the rain;

 and the splenic orb parallels the thunder.

 In this way human beings form a triad with Heaven and Earth…’

The Huainanzi: a guide to the theory and practice of government in early Han China

Translated and edited by John S Major et al.  Columbia University Press, 2010


The Godfather of Nephrology of course understands the theory of how Nature, through its climatic changes, has nurtured all created things, and has accordingly given the greatest emphasis on ethics in medical education.  He said, ‘In the instruction of medical students, we must supplement knowledge transmitted through lectures with clinical experience.  However, what rank as the most important are medical ethics and professionalism.’  In the past four decades Professor Yu has taught and supervised medical students at various levels.  Professor Yu was firmly behind the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine at the Chinese University, and had a significant role to play in raising the profile of the CUHK medical school in both the Hong Kong College of Physicians and the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.  Since 2003 Professor Yu has been an Honorary Professor in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at the Chinese University.  As a greatly respected and admired teacher at the medical schools of both universities for several decades, Professor Yu has imbued his students with not only professional knowledge of the highest standard, but also medical ethics and professionalism in their most exalted form, greatly to the benefit of the thousands of patients attended to by his former students.  Professor Yu is the Chairman of the Higher Physician Training Committee of the Hong Kong College of Physicians, which is currently tasked with the review of the existing system of interim and exit assessments for Fellowship of the College of Physicians, with a view to enhancing the fairness and transparency of the accreditation system for trainees.  ‘When a candidate cannot make it, we are obliged to provide him with a report on our assessment, so that he may know where he has made mistakes, and make amends accordingly.’  Such is Professor Yu’s approach to teaching and examination, and his determination to convince his students by reason.

Professor Yu is a good physician and a good statesman, too: he knows only too well that social stability hinges much on a well-structured system of medical and health care.  Over the years he has been an enthusiastic supporter of the work of the Hong Kong College of Physicians, having been the College’s founding Honorary Secretary (1986 – 1995), Vice-President (1993 – 1995) and eventually President (1998 – 2004).  In his effort to help maintain good order in the public medical sector, Professor Yu has participated actively in the governance of many public hospitals, being on the governing committees of Ruttonjee Hospital and Tang Shiu-kin Hospital (1992 – 2002), and Queen Mary Hospital and Tsan Yuk Hospital (from 2003).  Being a medical practitioner with the patients’ well-being always in mind, he became a member of the Pneumoconiosis Compensation Fund Board, and the Chairman of its Committee on Research, Education, Publicity and Rehabilitation.  He was also a member of the Review Committee of the Trust Fund for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, where his concern was whether the victims were reasonably compensated and effectively treated for rehabilitation.  In recognition of his distinguished contribution to medical education in Hong Kong and the welfare of the community, the Government of the HKSAR awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star to Professor Richard Yu in 2010.

An ardent supporter of the Chinese University, Professor Yu has made generous donations to the Chinese University on many occasions.  He has given funds aimed at the improvement of our clinical facilities, and in support of medical research.  A number of substantial scholarships have been instituted by him.  These include the Richard Yu Scholarships and the Carol Yu Louey Kwok-wan Scholarships. 

When he can find some leisure time amidst his many commitments and public offices, Professor Yu has been an enthusiastic photographer for many years.  In photography he is able to enjoy the contemplation of various aspects of nature, and the pleasure of reflecting on the eternal and immutable truths that reside therein.  Earlier this year he gave a charity exhibition of his photographic works in favour of the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation.  The exhibition, which featured many photographic renditions of plum blossoms, was titled Bloom (Obscure Scent and Scanty Shadows in Chinese), alluring to a ci by Jiang Kui, a famous man of letters who lived during the Southern Sung Dynasty.  A few lines are cited here for illustration:

…as from the scattered flowers beyond the bamboo,

Cool fragrance airs into my elegant bedroom...

At night snow begins to pile.

With a jade cup in hand tears come easy.

Reticent are plum blossoms as memories take hold of my mind.


The plum tree blossoms radiantly during the severity of deep winter, and its fragrance has an exalted gracefulness and elegance all its own.  It is a faithful reflection of the character of Professor Richard Yu who, through his many charitable acts over the years, has warmed the hearts and souls of needy people suffering from the wintry chill of deprivation.  The many students who have had the privilege of being under his tutelage are often overwhelmed with gratitude when they reminisce about their days working and studying under Professor Yu.

Mr Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Professor Yu Yue-hong Richard, outstanding physician, educationist and philanthropist, for the award of the degree of Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa.


This citation is delivered by Professor David Parker