Q: What is the one thing you would like to change about Hong Kong? A: The attitude of young people. They should think more about giving to society before taking from it. Hong Kong has long been renowned internationally for its medical expertise, especially in battling liver cancer and its success rates for liver transplants. That reputation was earned largely through the work of Professor Lo Chung-mau and his team. The head of surgery at the University of Hong Kong, he was a pioneer of living donor liver transplants in the 1990s. Today, as one of the world's leading specialists in this field, the 54-year-old faces the same challenges as many talented professionals of his vintage - the urgent need to find successors to pass their skills on to. When he was thinking about how to embark on the exercise it occurred to him that many of his younger counterparts have a different mindset than he did when he was their age. "Young people are now more inclined to take more than to give," Lo says. "They even think about what they can take before they can actually give." He further laments: "They are less likely to want to sacrifice for society." His evidence: the trend among young doctors to choose more lucrative and profitable medical subjects rather than those that require them to stomach more hardship. One such challenging pursuit would be liver transplant surgery, which is not only a mental but also a physical challenge to surgeons given its complexity. The procedure to remove the recipient's liver and implant it with the new organ could mean a 20-hour non-stop operation. Transplants are the only way to save patients with otherwise terminal liver diseases. In the 1990s, Lo and Fan Sheung-tat, chair professor of surgery, were among the first doctors in the city who gave hope to these patients by bringing their transplantation skills to Hong Kong after a one-year training course at the University of California, Los Angeles in the United States. The pair began by practising the technique on dozens of pigs at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, and failed countless times. One pig finally did survive and the team proved that it could be done. The following year, the duo performed the first liver transplant in the city using an organ from a dead donor. Since then, Lo and Fan have been tireless in their efforts to pioneer new and innovative skills to refine the surgical technique and the procedure to save more lives. In 1996, for example, the team pioneered an operation using the right-lobe liver graft and hence made it possible to use other sources of liver grafts - from living donors. Before their success, it was thought that a person could donate only a left lobe, but this would often be too small for most adult recipients. The right-lobe graft was a major breakthrough because for the first time it overcame the problems of organ shortage in adult patients and graft-size limitation. In recent years the survival rate for liver transplantation in Hong Kong has risen to 95 per cent, while the overall figure since 1996 is 85 per cent. Both are among the best success rates in the world. "Conducting a surgery is like a hand craft. Surgeons need to have a very stable mind and very delicate pair of hands to handle the equipment, and a very small mistake will cost the patients their lives. So it is really important that young doctors not only possess the skill, but also the attitude." But he fears that younger doctors now tend to care more about their welfare than seeking opportunities for further training. "When you tell them there is an opportunity for overseas training, they would immediately ask you about the wages, the hours of work, the holidays and so on. Some would say they have a young family to sustain, their wives are pregnant, or that they are paying a mortgage. We did not have so many misgivings when we headed to UCLA." When Lo left for UCLA, his son was two years old and his wife was pregnant with their second child, a daughter. "We knew that Hong Kong needed the technique and it would save lives. So we just went … If everyone thinks only of themselves, how can society improve? "In general, the younger generations in society, including those in the medical field, seem to be asking more from society than they are willing to give." He believes the same is true of the younger generation across society. He is particularly disappointed with the demands of the students behind the Occupy movement. The students took to the streets for 79 days to push for the unfettered right to vote for the chief executive. The young people also had other grievances, including what they saw as mounting social injustice with high income inequality and high property prices that dampened their hopes for a future in the city. Lo says he was impressed by the talents and commitment of the student leaders, but he was not persuaded by their demands. "They said society cannot fulfil their interest, desires and needs. But what have they sacrificed for society?" he asks. Lo grew up on a public housing estate with five siblings. His generation, he says, endured hardship in their bid to develop a prosperous city and stake their own future. "My father did not own a private flat until he retired. But now, young graduates who have just started earning for a few years complain about how they want to own a flat and they cannot afford it." He cites a friend's son as an example. The young man grew up in Hong Kong but furthered his studies in the US. He returned to the city and found a good trainee job at a bank, Lo explained. But then the son decided to return to the US for work, giving as his reason the difficulties he faced in buying a private flat here. He left his parents behind. Lo says he felt sorry for his friend and describes the son as "rather ungrateful". "The parents have provided for the son all their lives, but once he entered society, all he could think of was to buy a flat for himself, without first considering how to contribute to society or do something for his parents or siblings." Lo concedes that society has changed since he was a young man and expectations have also changed, but he firmly believes such attitudes ought to be corrected early. The surgeon says he had to do that in his own household. His eldest son, who is now a doctor, was at the receiving end when he was a boy of about four. Lo went home one day and realised that the young boy was acting bossily towards others. "He was ordering people around, kept saying 'I want this, I want that'. It was very rude. I obviously did not teach him such a tone when talking to people. Then I realised it was because he was getting along with the domestic helper in this way, as the helper would never say no to him." It was then that the professor made a mental note that he had to pay closer attention to his children's upbringing and education and ensure they grew up with the right attitudes and sense of personal responsibility. Of the students behind the Occupy movement, Lo has this to say: "The attitude of the students has to be changed. They cannot always say 'I want this' and 'I want that' from the government and society. There is responsibility following from their rights. "They should first think about what they can contribute to society, instead of destroying it." Lo was one of the 550 doctors who signed a petition titled "Deep Sorrow and Resentment" last October calling on pro-democracy protesters to end their blockades of main roads. The group likened the street protests to a cancer damaging Hong Kong's core values. Today, he still believes that issuing the statement was the right thing to do. During those 79 days of protests, he says, Hong Kong had "fallen ill" as the protests were severely affecting people's livelihoods, dividing residents and disrupting the rule of law. He advises young adults to be more open-minded in these issues and to be more open in exploring their careers on the mainland rather than complaining they lack opportunities in the city. So it comes as no surprise that Lo backs the development of HKU-Shenzhen Hospital, which is unpopular among doctors at Queen Mary's, HKU's teaching hospital. Instead, he sees it as a gold mine for the medical field - not in cash, but in terms of teaching, clinical trials and medical research. "Like it or not, it is crucial to go to the mainland for the sake of further developing medical research. They have the population base and there is so much room for development for the medical world," he says. On the city's future, Lo sees it as the role of elders in society to speak out too, not just let the young set the agenda. He says: "Some people criticised me as being too straight and too outspoken on political issues as a doctor, but I feel it is my responsibility to speak out." Hong Kong surgeon is one of world's top liver transplant experts Professor Lo Chung-mau is a top international expert in liver transplantation and hepatobiliary surgery. He earned his medical degree from the University of Hong Kong in 1985 and is now head of surgery at HKU, which runs the only dedicated liver-transplant centre in Hong Kong, one of the most successful in Asia. Lo's team at HKU was the first in the world to perform a right-lobe liver transplant in 1996, and has continued to achieve the world's highest success rates in this lifesaving operation. Lo was awarded the US-British James IV Travelling Fellowship in 2002, which saw him visit nine world-class institutions. In 2004, he received Hong Kong's Croucher Foundation Senior Medical Research Fellowship to support his research in the prevention of hepatitis B after liver transplantation. In 2006, Lo and his team won a first-class award under the State Science & Technology Awards organised by China's National Office of Science & Technology Awards. He is also a former president of the International Liver Transplantation Society.