Speech at The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the College of Surgeons of Hong Kong Diploma Presentation Ceremony 2006
Diploma Presentation Ceremony 2006
12 October 2006
Arthur Li Oration
Enhancing Internationalization to Raise Global Standards
Good evening ladies and gentlemen:
We who have received honorary fellowships this evening thank the
As this oration precedes the Quincentenary Closing Ceremony of the Royal College of Surgeons of
Old as it must be as the College itself, surgery is NOT, as we all know, the world’s ‘oldest’ profession. Nevertheless, the
The fact that you have come to
But there is more to it. A surgical college is made up of many surgeons. Gratification at the individual level adds up and is translated into collective gains for both the local college and its
Just imagine how these benefits can be tripled or quadrupled, if bilateral interaction is extended to include other surgical associations in other places. At this point, let me bring in the concepts of internationalization and global standards, concepts that concern all our diplomates here, and form the core of my address tonight.
In the education sector, internationalization has been the subject of much discourse over the past 20 years. It is becoming central to the provision of higher education, particularly in this age of globalization.
Globalization itself is another frequently used term these days. In fact internationalization and globalization are sometimes used interchangeably, although they refer to rather different concepts.
Whereas globalization refers to the massive flow of knowledge, technology, assets, people, ideas and values across borders, internationalization is the way a country, a sector, or an institution proactively responds to the opportunities arising from globalization within its own system.
Whereas globalization imposes itself on nations and cultures that cross its path, internationalization emphasizes partnership among equals and participatory intervention.
Globalization is facilitated by new and powerful tools of communication such as satellite TV, computers and the Internet. The process is fuelled by the rapid elimination of trade barriers, which has opened up societies across the globe to competition and free trade. Globalization has a tendency to homogenize, bringing a common viewpoint and much the same set of values to different peoples around the globe. Take for example global or supra-national corporations like MacDonalds, Microsoft or
Globalization has time and again caused resentment. Critics have commented how it is marked by exploitation, instability and uncertainty, how it increases inequality and advances corporate interest at the expense of the well-being of the ordinary people. Others have described the process as being colonial, displacing indigenous cultures and blurring national identities in much the same way as imperialism forced its way upon different peoples in the 19th and 20th centuries. We have also seen how the formation of global financial markets has allowed speculators to outwit national governments, hijack macro-economic strategies, and wreak havoc on local economies.
Internationalization on the other hand seeks to preserve diversity by respecting cultural differences and national identities. It encourages interaction among national groupings. Its advocates tell us that it is only through enhanced mutual understanding and cooperation that progress for all can be achieved, in a harmonious way.
In a sense, globalization can be compared to the Nazi army that was out to conquer, and internationalization the concerted effort of the Allies to restore national sovereignty and world peace. Or better still, it is akin to the efforts of the United Nations to advance the well-being of mankind. Let us hope of course that internationalization can be just a little bit more fruitful than the UN.
Obviously, what I am proposing for the surgical fraternity is internationalization. While our ultimate goal is to raise global surgical standards, we are not going to impose our standards onto any other group, nor are we going to accept standards being imposed upon us. Instead of having a surgical superpower that dictates standards for all surgeons around the world, we seek to achieve continuous improvement through friendly cooperation among the surgical colleges of different places, on the basis of mutual respect and as equal partners.
This, in fact, is what members of the
At the institutional level, the
Speaking from experience, I cannot think of a more delightful group of people to work with than my fellow members at the
Ladies and gentlemen, many of you seated here have just received your diplomas from the Royal College of Surgeons of
The Scottish historian and writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was once talking to a young friend, and asked him what his aim in life was. The young man replied that he had none. “Get one, then, and get it quick,” said Carlyle, sharply. “Make something your specialty. Life is a very uncertain affair. Knowing a little about five hundred things won’t do us much good. We must be able to do something well, so that our work would be needed and valuable.” This is a most relevant quote for tonight, and I take this opportunity to congratulate all the diplomates here for having set an aim in life and made surgery your specialty. It is an honourable calling you have chosen and you have proved that you can do it well. Your work will bring much good to society and your services will be highly valued by your patients. You should be proud of yourselves.
As a professor emeritus of surgery, I know how tough surgical training is and how hard one has to work continuously in order to maintain standards and upgrade professional skills and knowledge. All surgeons also work very long hours under great pressure. Yours is a profession that gives a lot of job satisfaction but at the same time requires a lot of sacrifice: sacrifice of your own, and sacrifice of your family. You couldn’t have come this far without the support of your family members, especially your spouse, if you have one. While I share the joy you feel right now, I would also urge you to, when you return home this evening, reiterate your deep affection for your better half and your true appreciation of their support, which you will continue to need for many many years. Surgeons’ spouses are a very special lot. Time and again they are long suffering by the nature of our work and the requirements of our duties. But I always tend to believe there is a higher purpose behind this long suffering: that we may love them more and appreciate them even more. This is purely my conjecture, after many years as a surgeon.
Dear diplomates, I have to declare my interest in expecting you to love your spouses. I need more children for my schools. From yesterday’s Policy Address, you know I have done the difficult part. Now it is up to you to do the pleasurable part! I also have other high expectations of you. I look forward to your staunch support for the