Rank Humbly

nus hku logoAs of September, 2014, the National University of Singapore (NUS) was ranked 22nd among all the universities in this world – this places NUS as the number one university in Asia.

My alma mater, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has been moved down a bit to 28th ranking, making it the number 3 university in Asia – not too bad still, as there are thousands of universities in the world.

I consider myself lucky to have been educated in the University of Hong Kong in the 1980s. I am not sure what the world wide ranking of HKU was at that time, but it was certainly the number one school in Hong Kong. HKU gave me a learning experience that I am forever grateful for.

My path was diverted a little in the summer of 1988 when I joined a short exchange program between the Faculties of Dentistry of HKU and NUS. Through that exchange program, I met numerous friends and colleagues in my industry. Through one of their outings, I met my boss in life – my lovely wife, Moonlake.

After years of living abroad, we decided to call Singapore home in 2004 and raise our family here simply because of better opportunities, the great education system, and many sentimental reasons. My luck was extended further as I am currently serving at both the NUS and HKU at the professorial level in my specialty area.

As people, we are who we are because of our genetic make up, which determines our appearance, hair color, how high we jump, temperament, etc.. Of course, by adjusting our food intake and exercise level, one can alter the body shape dramatically within a reasonable period of time. However, we are who we are because of the work that was injected into our lives. We can’t really thank our mothers enough for the good food she cooked for us during our formative years, can we?

Hong Kong has been facing a lot of large and small scale problems in the last 30 years. Lately the country has been plagued by a host of problems ranging from housing to air pollution to politics to salary stagnation, and more recently, questionable cooking oil, etc.. This in a way makes living outside of Hong Kong sound so palatable. From time to time I have Singapore taxi drivers who comment that I still don’t sound ‘local’ even though I have been in the Lion city for over a decade. I usually tell them it is in my DNA as scientific research has shown that speech patterns are pretty much formed by age 7.

Just a few days ago, an internet friend asked me how I like Hong Kong now knowing the current status of the country. My answer was this – It is not how I had liked it, not how I would have loved it and not how I may feel about the future of Hong Kong. I was born there and have spent a sizeable portion of my life time there, was schooled there and I still have a HKU academic appointment and tons of families and friends there. There is no way that history can be changed as history is being made with the movement of the shadow on a sundial all the time. We simply cannot undo our roots.

Recently, NUS celebrated the 85th birthday of its dental school and there was a big gathering at a nice hotel. Numerous prominent alumni from the school were there. Our clinic had a table there and we had a great time. However, I heard that many people could not make it due to various reasons. The most ‘interesting’ reason from one ex-student was to effect that s/he does not want to have anything to do with the school anymore…

My uncle Tom used to say this: “Our world is perfectly full of imperfections. Focusing on the turds would never make a great life. Chew on it.” I think it is time to check the bite.

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