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Leader of the Year 2015 -
A Shining Vanguard for Medical Humanitarian Response

Prof Emily Chan Ying-yang

Professor Emily Chan 

陳英凝MBBS 2003

Acknowledgement: Sing Tao Daily "Leader of the Year 2015" booklet

Chinese version here


Professor Emily Chan has participated in frontline international medical humanitarian response work for

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since the mid-1990s. She has left her humanitarian footprints in more than 30 countries around the globe.


She was the youngest president of MSF-Hong Kong, taking up the position in 2001 at the age of 27.


She has been recognised as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World and Hong Kong Ten Outstanding Young Persons.


She is the awardee of the Leader of The Year 2015, Professor Emily Yingyang Chan, Centre Director of the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC).


Public recognition and awards during her early years had fuelled her motivation to move forward. Appreciating the importance of knowledge transfer to the younger generation, she joined the Faculty of Medicine at CUHK in 2006 in an attempt to develop the study of global health, disaster and humanitarian programme for China and the Asia-Pacific Region. During the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Professor Chan led a team of MSF responders to the frontline to support medical relief and subsequently she established the “China Ethnic Minority Health Project” in 2009 to provide a formal platform to bring professionals and trainees to remote poor and disaster-prone rural areas in mainland China to carry out global public health interventions and to engage in disaster preparedness education there. During the past seven years, Professor Chan and her team have trekked across eight western provinces, visiting more than 30 ethnic minority villages to conduct research as well as to engage in health and disaster preparedness promotion activities. In 2011, Professor Chan established CCOUC, a joint endeavour between Oxford University and CUHK and the first disaster and medical humanitarian response academic research and training centre in Asia. Three years ago, she also established the CUHK Centre for Global Health to allow collaborations among Oxford University, Harvard University and other international academic and civil society communities in global health research and issues. Professor Chan aspires to further internationalise these platforms by connecting with institutions in South America and Africa.


Concentrate on research duties until retirement

Juggling both frontline and university, Professor Chan focused her effort on the study of medical and public health impacts of globalisation, disasters and climate change. Her academic work and findings have supported policymaking in health and climate change at government departments like Hong Kong Observatory and disaster medical humanitarian response at international agencies like the World Health Organization. At the same time, the international online course “Public Health Principles in Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response” launched in 2014 has already attracted more than 3,000 participants from more than 120 countries all over the world, among whom more than half come from 45 “One Belt and One Road” countries. Professor Chan believes that CCOUC’s internationalisation effort can tie in with the SAR Government’s policy of strengthening the higher education exchange with “One Belt and One Road” countries.


Professor Chan emphasised that her academic pursuits have become a lifestyle choice and quest until her retirement.


Professor Chan admitted that her work was arduous as global health, disaster preparedness education and climate change research were multidisciplinary subjects. Nevertheless, the excitement of engaging in these topics is the prospect of groundbreaking results whenever breakthrough occurs. She considers the Leader of The Year 2015 award not only an honour to her work and her dedicated team, but also a valuable recognition of and encouragement to their efforts.Through her academic works, Professor Chan hopes to provide a platform to bring in the best education opportunities. Deeply believing that “education can change lives,” she reckoned that the baton of humanitarian work had been successfully passed on, but it was not an “end-point.”


A message to young people: find your “position”

Professor Chan believes that “All real education is the architecture of the soul.” Outstanding leaders should be educators in their hearts and shoulder the social responsibilities to provide opportunities for young people. She believes that everyone can have these leadership traits, but it is a matter if the person has the chance to discover where his/her passion lay. She hopes young people can explore their own calling and look for ways to be part of the global community.

All real education is the architecture of the soul.

  • Professor Emily Chan Ying-yang