Rejoicing at ‘home’
S.H. Ho College Master Professor Vincent Mok walks with students
Established in 2006, S.H. Ho College (SHHO) has ‘home’ as its core value. In August 2022, SHHO welcomed its third “dad”, Professor Vincent Mok, the Mok Hing Yiu Professor of Medicine and former head of Division of Neurology at Department of Medicine and Therapeutics. “Looking back on the past year, it was a sweet dream, though it incessantly kept me on my toes after I took up the master role,” he says with a chuckle.
Professor Mok, whose mother was a nurse, has long had a keen appreciation of the importance of healthcare, and was determined to become a doctor. When it came to choosing his medical specialty, he went for neurology without hesitation. “The brain is an amazing organ, where thoughts and emotions originate. It should be well taken care of. Additionally, having lived with my grandmother since childhood, I was praised for having patience in communicating with the elderly who are more prone to dementia and stroke,” Professor Mok explains.
Apart from teaching, research, practising medicine and administration, Professor Mok holds various public positions, such as chairman of the Neurology Specialty Board at the Hong Kong College of Physicians, and honorary treasurer of the Asian Society Against Dementia.
His journey to becoming College Master, he says, was guided by one of the College’s most respected figures. “The story began with Dr Ho Tzu-leung, Chairman of SHHO’s Committee of Overseers, for whom I have great respect. A doctor by profession, Dr Ho cares about the well-being of elderly people in Hong Kong. He contributes to elderly care both financially and through personal participation. In 2015, Dr Ho approached me to organise and facilitate training courses aimed at empowering social workers with skills to help dementia patients and their families.”
Subsequently, Dr Ho invited Professor Mok to switch his college affiliation from Chung Chi to SHHO. In 2021, he received another invitation from Dr Ho, this time to assume the position of College master.
While honoured to get Dr Ho’s recognition, he hesitated. “I studied medicine in an Australian university where there was no collegiate system. Having no idea of college life and plenty of work ahead, I was not confident of getting the job done smoothly. However, Dr Ho underlined that the College was on solid foundations and colleagues would share my workload,” Professor Mok recalls.
Conversations with two colleagues from the Faculty of Medicine also played a vital role. Professor Mok says, “Professor Anthony Chan, CUHK Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Li Shu Fan Medical Foundation Professor of Clinical Oncology and master of Wu Yee Sun College, encouraged me: ‘It’s manageable. See, I have walked this path myself.’”
The other was Professor Mok’s good friend Professor Justin Wu Che-yuen, associate dean of the Faculty of Medicine and professor in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics. Back in 1994, when Professor Mok joined the Prince of Wales Hospital as a general practitioner, Professor Wu was his colleague, and later they shared an office. “He told me that my profile as an educator at CUHK would not be complete without experiencing college life.”
Professor Mok made up his mind to accept the challenge and carefully considered how to fulfil the master’s role. He decided to step down from his position as Assistant Dean of Medicine, reduce his research workload and about 80% of his private consultation hours. “Though I miss my patients, I believe that the doctors taking over will care for them just as I do.”
The sweet dream begins
Well liked by his students, Professor Mok received the Teacher of the Year Award seven times between 2005 and 2012, the Master Teacher Award in 2012, the Outstanding Fellow Award in 2016 and the Education Award (Collaborative Team) from the Faculty of Medicine in 2023.
He says that there’s no particular secret to his teaching success. “I simply enjoy interacting with students. That makes me happy. As long as you care for the students, they can feel it, which helps you establish a close rapport with them.”
Striving to experience college life, Professor Mok tried to join as many college activities as possible, including communal dining, high table dinners, night markets and singing contest. He even bought a sports smartwatch, so he could join the College’s running team. “Now I can run faster and longer,” he says.
His experiences have proved the wisdom of the advice he received from Professors Chan and Wu. In his welcome speech for freshmen this year, Professor Mok mentioned that he felt proud of this “home”, a sense of belonging that was only increasing. His most unforgettable experience, he added, was the service trip with 12 SHHO students to Uganda in June 2023. “On the last evening, as I read the letters written by students sharing their thoughts towards me, I was so touched by their encouraging words that I could not hold back my tears from streaming down,” he says. “The past year was a sweet dream.”
The happy companion
Professor Mok says, “Professor Samuel Sun and Professor Wong Wing-shing, both former masters of the College, stepped down from their teaching and research work and devoted themselves to inspiring students. As I still hold certain teaching, medical and public positions, it is not feasible for me to be a full-time ‘dad’, but I can still be students’ companion.”
The happy companion also leverages his extensive personal network to provide more opportunities for students to engage in public service. He adds, “Through serving the community, students enrich their life, learn to work with all sectors of society and, more importantly, understand the community’s needs and how to address them.” One example is the recently launched Charles Kao CUHK BEAT AD Service, of which Professor Mok is one of the principal organisers. In addition, the College has introduced a pilot service-learning general education course.
In August, Professor Mok adopted an adorable assistant, a five-year-old female shiba inu, after students requested him to do so. The youngest member of the home is named Ollie, derived from “Olive”, the branches of which traditionally symbolise peace, and which also refers to a skateboard technique that helps the rider leap high. It’s another example of Professor Mok’s commitment to walking students through their journey, helping them to enjoy peace at their new “home” and to support one another in achieving their dreams.
By Florence Chan
Photos courtesy of interviewee