PUBLIC HEALTH

Busy Hong Kong undersecretary Sophia Chan misses academia, but declines to say whether she will stay in government

Former nursing school director says she most misses her students and research work

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 10:30pm

The city’s busiest undersecretary, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, said she missed her old job at the university.

Without saying whether she would stay in the new administration when it starts working in July, she shed tears about how much she missed the teaching and research work she had forgone to become health chief Dr Ko Wing-man’s undersecretary.

Looking back, Chan told the Post she would not regret the setbacks she experienced in the government over the past five years.

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She said she was glad to contribute to the implementation of a number of public health policies and vowed to continue her efforts even though just four months remain in the current administration’s term.

“I have no time to think about my career [after this term] as there is too much work to be done,” she said, when asked about whether she would stay in the government or return to academia.

But the former University of Hong Kong nursing school director of research said she missed her former teaching life.

“I miss [the university] very much,” said Chan, who shed tears as she explained how she missed her students the most, as well as her research work.

“Not that I do not like government work, it is just that they are very different. I first experienced a steep learning curve, but then gradually I was able to cope.”

She said she did not regret the setbacks during her term, such as the failed effort to reform the Medical Council and a watered down voluntary health insurance scheme.

She believed the next government would continue the policy directions started this term as they were for the benefit of public health.

Chan, a public health expert, is considered to be the busiest and one of the best known undersecretaries. She has taken a leading role in formulating anti-smoking policies, encouraging breastfeeding and promoting organ donations.

“At the university, I only have to worry about teaching, conducting research and giving suggestions to the government. People around me all have the same goal and worked towards it together.

“But being in the government is much more complicated. It involves a wider spectrum of subjects and we often need to lobby parties who have many different interests.”

On her relations with Ko, who enjoys the highest popularity among all ministers, Chan said they were like-minded people.

“I think we are a good match and we are happy to work together,” Chan said. “Both of us are serious and hardworking people, and we work towards the best interests of the public on health issues. We have the same goal and our job has been very meaningful.”

“I also thank him for placing so much trust in me and giving me the chance to work on so many different subjects even though some things are new to me.”

But she would not say whether she would continue to be Ko’s deputy if the minister stayed for another term.