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Thursday, Dec 08, 2022

Hong Kong’s best and brightest must look beyond medical school

Hong Kong’s best and brightest must look beyond medical school

We must not allow tunnel vision and outdated notions of success to funnel top students into only pursuing careers in medicine. Our brightest young minds should look to other fields in science and technology while seeking opportunities in the Greater Bay Area.
This year’s Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education results were released recently. As has been the case for the past 10 years, the media descended on a handful of candidates who attained perfect scores, considered essential for youngsters seeking to secure a subsidised place in one of Hong Kong’s publicly funded universities.

However, what is striking is that, over the years, more than 50 per cent of those achieving perfect scores have chosen to study medicine at one of the city’s two medical schools to become a doctor. I am glad to see that bright students want to pursue a career in medicine, especially as public hospitals have been under tremendous pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a chronic shortage of doctors.

This issue is worthy of further consideration, and it might even shed light on how Hong Kong can best prepare its youngsters to expand their horizons beyond the city, given the vast potential of the mainland.

For a start, let’s try to understand why Hong Kong’s top students pick local medical schools over other academic disciplines. The answers of this year’s crop are illuminating: some say they want to be a doctor to save lives; others hope to contribute to solving the manpower problems of our healthcare system.

Those are noble aspirations, but one cannot help but wonder whether they have also considered other ways to contribute to the cause. Perhaps, instead, they could study advanced scientific and technology subjects like artificial intelligence, biochemistry or robotics, which can also help save lives.

These days, some intricate surgical procedures can be better performed by augmented reality-assisted robots. Therefore, students should not brush aside other interesting and worthwhile subjects.

Nevertheless, our public hospitals still rely on doctors and nurses to deliver healthcare services rather than robots and supercomputers. In addition to bolstering the intake of medical students and working towards a long-term technological revolution, the city should boost its scheme to bring in mainland doctors and look to attract qualified healthcare workers from overseas to solve its labour shortage.

Hopefully these high-achieving students have weighed the pros and cons and made informed decisions rather than being pressured into pursuing a medical career. Hong Kong parents often tell me this is a pathway to guaranteed success, monetary or otherwise. If these are the views of the majority, our youth could be limited by their parents’ tunnel vision.

Hong Kong is not short of courses on artificial intelligence, robotics, or technology and life science subjects, never mind the less-common subjects such as astronomy and astrophysics for bright DSE candidates to unlock their full potential.

Three of the city’s universities offer undergraduate degree courses in AI. Others run a range of undergraduate degree programmes in cutting-edge science and technology.

One cannot help but wonder why so many of our best and brightest opt for a career in medicine. If money is their primary motivation and they enter private practice or secure a lucrative job at a private hospital after completing the required period of training at a public hospital, Hong Kong’s shortage of doctors will drag on.

One factor holding back high school graduates from pursuing science, technology engineering or maths (STEM) courses could be the lack of jobs in the fields of AI, robotics or advanced computer engineering in Hong Kong. So, students wishing to get ahead in these fields should look for opportunities on the mainland, especially in the Greater Bay Area, host to many thriving and innovative science and technology sectors.

It is wonderful to be able to combine one’s passion with a career because then the rewards are much more than the salary earned. Money was certainly not on Steve Wozniak’s mind when he co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs. Yet, his hobby led to the birth of the world’s largest company in terms of market capitalisation.

The point for our young people is: don’t limit your vision and be open to exploring your passion without losing sight of the future. For Hong Kong, the future is unmistakably intertwined with the mainland’s.
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