The Ethnic Minority Health Project initiated by Chan led to the founding of the Collaborating Centre of Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response, or CCOUC.
Chan has served as CCOUC director since its founding in 2011. Her disaster relief initiative has become a flagship program and paved the way for her efforts to build the emerging discipline of humanitarian medicine in the Greater China area.
The project offers field experience for Hong Kong university students. These efforts have paid off in another way, with the program being awarded second prize in the 2018 National Teaching Achievement Awards (Higher Education). The Ministry of Education cited the creative ways for teaching and learning that have evolved through the program.
"Some 700 students, most of them from Hong Kong, have participated in the project since it was inaugurated," Chan said.
Before going on field trips, students have to map out logistics for the project, including special attention to the physical, cultural and ethnical issues in the areas they are visiting.
On site, they learn crowd control, venue management and event scheduling. Workshops are usually attended by more than 100 villagers.
Evan Shang Su-wei, an undergraduate in medicine at CUHK, said, "I improved my clinical communication skills."
He said the experience taught him to be tactful and ask questions about local health habits in a sensitive manner. He added that recording villagers' medical histories also helped during his internships. Shang has been on field trips to Jilin, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
Carol Wong Ka-po found that the fieldwork made her more determined than ever to pursue a career in public health.
"There are a lot of transitional problems in rural China. I learned to understand people's behavior and reasoning before evaluating their needs and how to address them," said Wong, now a program manager at CCOUC.
Among the so-called empty-nest elderly people she met on the field trips, some said they were willing to go to senior care homes to avoid being a burden on their children.
As time passes, new concerns arise. Suicides have been reported among the elderly population, and Wong believes that aging is a new public health concern that the program must address.