History

The formation of the Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology


In the l980's, Rheumatology was still a young subspecialty in Hong Kong that enjoyed little recognition despite the fact that rheumatic diseases were common and that certain conditions such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) was more prevalent among Chinese in Hong Kong. The provision of rheumatology service was also far from satisfactory. Most government hospitals, except the 2 teaching hospitals, did not provide rheumatology service. There were only 3 rheumatologists in public service and 3 in private service. The general public was poorly educated in rheumatic diseases with many misconceptions resulting in delay in diagnosis. With rapid developments in the immunological basis of rheumatic diseases, family physicians did not have a good channel to receive update information in this fast-growing subspecialty. There was an urgent need to establish an organisation to promote the interest in and the standard of care in rheumatic diseases in Hong Kong. Through such an establishment, scientific exchange with international societies in rheumatology and academic institutions overseas would be made possible. It is with these shared views that Dr Edmund Li, Dr Raymond Wong and myself formed the Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology.

The Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology was incorporated on the 12th day of January, l988. The first members of the Council were Drs Chan Ka Ho, Edmund K Li, Wong Woon Sing and Wong Kee Lam. Dr Chan Ka Ho was the first President, Dr Edmund K Li the first Honorary Secretary and Dr Wong Woon Sing the first Honorary Treasurer. There were 4 categories of members, namely: Full Member, Ordinary Member, Associate Member and Honorary Member.

In the same year after its incorporation, the Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology has successfully become a member of the regional organisation in rheumatology, the South East Asian League Against Rheumatism (SEAPAL, now renamed Asian Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology or APLAR) and the international body in rheumatology, the International League of Associations for Rheumatology (ILAR). We were encouraged by warm wishes from Dr Tito Torralba, President of the SEAPAL and Dr Charles Plotz, Treasurer of the ILAR. Locally, the Society established its link with other medical societies by becoming a member society of the Federation of Medical Societies of Hong Kong.

The Society did not wait for confirmation of its legal status before organising its activities. The inaugural scientific meeting was held on 10th December l987 at the Furama Hotel, Hong Kong. Dr Wong Kee Lam, Dr Wong Woon Sing and Dr Edmund Li presented lectures on "Systemic Lupus Erythematosus". Over 280 doctors participated in the evening inaugural meeting.

We were proud to be able to organise a Pre-SEAPAL Scientific Meeting on September 1st, l988, with the Council Members of ILAR as our guest speakers. Professor Jacques Villiaumey, President of ILAR; Dr Charles Plotz, Treasurer of ILAR; and Professor C J Menkes, Secretary-General of ILAR; each delivered a lecture. The Hong Kong Tourist Association as well as the Council Members of ILAR were keen to see that a future SEAPAL meeting could be held in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, a feasibility study done by a conference organiser, Pico Limited, suggested it was too risky a commitment for us with our limited financial resources and manpower.

To promote scientific exchanges with rheumatologists in China, the Council initiated communication with the Chinese Rheumatology Association. With much difficulty, we succeeded in having the first joint scientific symposium between the Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology and the Chinese Rheumatology Association in December l989 at the Victoria Hotel, Hong Kong. This meeting provided us with a good opportunity to establish a good interflow and exchanges between the two societies in the following years.

Dr Chan Ka Ho
Founding President
The Hong Kong Society of Rheumatology




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