SRS Newsletter
March 2011
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Tribute to a Pioneer and Leader in Orthopaedic Surgery: Professor Arthur Yau

Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology,
University of Hong Kong
and SRS Global Affairs Advisory Board

Professor Arthur Charles Yau Meng-Choy (1929 - 2011), MBBS, FRCSEd, FACS, FAMS, FHKCOS, FHKAM

Professor Arthur Yau, a member of the Scoliosis Research Society, passed away on the 13th of January 2011.

Arthur Charles Yau Meng-Choy, MBBS, FRCSEd, FACS, FAMS, FHKCOS, FHKAM

Professor Yau was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1929. He studied engineering for a year before taking up medicine at the University of Hong Kong, graduating in 1956. Soon thereafter, the late Professor AR Hodgson saw Professor Yau as a young talent and recruited him in 1962 as a part-time lecturer into the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Hong Kong. He progressed through the ranks of senior lecturer and reader to take up a personal Chair in 1972. He became the Head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1975 and continued to serve in this capacity until 1980. He was a founding member of the Western Pacific Orthopaedic Association (1962), President of the Hong Kong Orthopaedic Association (1975), Medical Director of the Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital (1975-1976), organizing chairman of the first Scoliosis Research Society meeting in Hong Kong (1977), and was Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong (1977-1978). After he entered private practice at the Canossa Hospital in 1980, he continued to maintain a close relationship with the orthopaedic fraternity in general and the University Department in particular. He was a founding fellow of the Hong Kong College of Orthopaedic Surgeons and served as a council member from 1987 to 1993. He remained in the Court of Examiners of the college and played an active role in its development.

Professor Yau’s contributions to orthopedics were immeasurable and cemented him as a true pioneer in the field. In the 1960s, together with the late Professor Hodgson, they established the anterior approach for treatment of TB spine. In 1966, he was one of the three surgeons named to participate in the prospective multicenter clinical trial on the treatment of tuberculosis of the spine initiated by the Medical Research Council of London. This study demonstrated that anterior debridement and spinal fusion provided the best results, and the technique was later dubbed the “Hong Kong Operation.” This put The Duchess of Kent Children’s Hospital and the University of Hong Kong on the world map, and ushered in the beginning of what became an unwavering stream of spine surgeons to visit Hong Kong to learn this technique. Around that same period and along with Dr. John O’Brien and Professor Hodgson, Professor Yau was instrumental in developing the halo-pelvic traction apparatus. This enabled gradual correction of severe and rigid spinal deformities while minimizing neurovascular complications. In the late 1970s, he developed for anterior spinal fusion a titanium mesh implant, which is a forerunner of the present day anterior cage used for spinal fusion.

Although Professor Yau was a very active orthopedic surgeon, he always found time for sports, family, and friends. It was typical for Professor Yau to indulge in Malaysian cuisine and, of course, golfing – his second passion after orthopedics.

Professor Yau was a scholar, an educator, an innovator, a master surgeon, and a beloved friend. He was not only a pioneer and leader in his craft but also a man who lived his life to the fullest. Professor Yau is and will remain a role model in the hearts of many worldwide.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine, six children and six grandchildren, and an entire community of orthopaedic colleagues and appreciative patients.