Truth seeker heeds father's advice to rescue others

Local | Yupina Ng 19 Apr 2016

She always wanted to be out in the field as a reporter, but Emily Chan Ying-yang became a doctor specializing in a humanitarian response instead.

Taking advice from her father, Chan now acts as an integral figure in times of natural disasters and also in the classroom.

"My dad told me if I became a doctor, I could not only uncover the truth but also rescue victims of natural disasters," said Chan, who is the director of the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and Chinese University of Hong Kong for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response.

Marking its fifth anniversary today, the nonprofit center was set up by Oxford and CUHK to carry out research, training and exchange ideas in disaster and medical humanitarian response in the Asia- Pacific region.

Chan joined Doctors Without Borders in 1998 and became the youngest chairwoman of the local board when she was 27. It was her passion and drive which prompted the two universities to install her as the center's inaugural director.

Chan is also a professor of the Faculty of Medicine at CUHK, a health expert and a mother of two.

"My daily routine is crazy. Sometimes I feel like I'm being sandwiched," the 41-year-old said.

"My biggest challenge is how to adjust the pace since I work in the field, as well as being an academic who is supposed to be static."

One of her recent field trips was as leader of a three-person team to Nepal last June, following two devastating earthquakes in April and May that killed more than 8,000 people. The team traveled to Nepal eight weeks after the first earthquake to conduct a technical assessment on the needs of those in suburban and rural communities.

Chan said about 59 representatives from local and international NGOs, hospital management and academics joined a training session on post-disaster public health. But Chan said one training session is not enough, which is why she will lead a six- student team to revisit Nepal next Monday.

CUHK Year Two medical student Hebe Law Hei-yu joined the center as a field volunteer and described Chan as an inspiring teacher.

"She is always busy. But when she is in the field, she puts in 100 percent effort," she said.

Chan said she had learned more about the idea of "hope" from her students. "I always see someone suffering in the field. But I also see hope in the younger generation because of the students' eagerness to do something."

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