As a major discipline in a medical school the history of the Department of Medicine is inseparable from that of the Medical Faculty and the University of Hong Kong. Before the appointment of a full time professor in 1923 the teaching of medicine in the Hong Kong College of Medicine (1887-1911), and later within the ambit of the University of Hong Kong, was undertaken by part-time staff who were medical officers in government service or experienced doctors in private practice. Needless to say, such piecemeal arrangements for teaching were far from satisfactory. A donation from the Rockefeller Foundation led to the appointment of John Anderson as Founding Professor and enabled the Department of Medicine to be formally established in 1923. For a brief period leading up to the Second World War, Professor W J Gerrard became the head. The early years of the Department, like that of the Faculty of Medicine and the University, were plagued by uncertainties, as funding depended largely on fees and private donations. From time to time the Faculty was under threat of having to close down due to lack of funds.
The number of medical students was small, about 16 graduates a year at around the outbreak of the Second World War. The department was also extremely small, consisting of a full time professor and one or two assistants. Much of the clinical teaching was delegated to part-time staff. Only the top students had the honour of being appointed as assistants, all of whom were excellent and dedicated teachers. Regrettably, the professor had no control over the use of beds in any hospital where teaching took place (the Nethersole Hospital or the Government Civil Hospital). Access to patients had to be negotiated and depended on the goodwill of Government medical officers. It was not until 1936 that beds in the Government Civil Hospital were formally allocated to the Department in exchange for the provision of clinical service. This was the beginning of the inseparable link between teaching and clinical service as the main functions of the clinical departments. When Queen Mary Hospital opened its doors in the following year and the Department of Medicine was allocated more beds in the new hospital, the staff were jubilant thinking that they would have a firm base to teach and to engage in meaningful research. However, their jubilance was short-lived because of the onslaught of the Second World War. The entire University including the Department closed down from Christmas 1941 to mid 1945 when Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese.
When peace came and the University resumed operation in late 1945, a Government consultant at Queen Mary Hospital, P B Wilkinson, doubled up as acting Professor of Medicine, a post he held for two years before the war. In 1948, the University appointed a Glasgow University graduate, A J S McFadzean to the Chair and headship of the Department.
Department Heads, HKU
formerly known as University Medical Unit (UMU) till 1992, where upon it merged with the then Government Medical Unit (GMU) to formally establish the Department of Medicine, HKU, QMH.
- Professor John Anderson (1923 - 1928) - Founding Professor of Medicine
- Professor W.J. Gerrard (1929 - 1939)
- Professor P.B. Wilkinson (1939 - 1941 and 1946 - 1948) - acting
- Professor A.J.S. McFadzean (1948 - 1974)
- Professor Sir David Todd (1974 -1989)
- Professor Tai-Kwong Chan (1989 - 1995)
- Professor Shiu-Kum Lam (1995 - 2001)
- Professor Wah-Kit Lam (2001 - 2004)
- Professor Kar-Neng Lai (2004 - 2007)
- Professor Karen Siu-Ling Lam (2007 - 2016)
- Professor Mary Sau Man Ip (2016 - present)
Chiefs of Service, QMH
- Professor Tai-Kwong Chan (1992 -1995)
- Professor Shiu-Kum Lam (1995 - 2001)
- Professor Kar-Neng Lai (2001 - 2010)
- Prof Tak Mao Chan (2010 - 2013)
- Prof Kwok Wai Lie (2013- 2018)
- Prof Chak Sing Lau (2018- present)
Heads, Government Medical Unit (GMU)
- Dr Gerald H. Choa
- Dr K.H. Chin
- Dr Michael T.S. Tsang