One-time classmates and longtime friends Sir Llew Edwards and Nat Yuen were reunited at UQ on the weekend. (Pic Lyle Radford)
One-time classmates and longtime friends Sir Llew Edwards and Nat Yuen were reunited at UQ on the weekend. (Pic Lyle Radford)
5 July 2010

TWO friends who studied medicine together almost half a century ago were honoured at a University of Queensland gala dinner on Saturday night.

Sir Llewellyn Edwards AC is the University's 2010 Alumnus of the Year, and Dr Nat Yuen is the International Alumnus of the Year.

Sir Llew said he was "absolutely thrilled" that his long-term friend and former medical school classmate, Dr Nat Yuen, had been recognised as International Alumnus of the Year.

"It couldn't have gone to a nicer person," Sir Llew said. "Nat and I were in the same class right through Medical School. We worked together as resident medical officers, and it was during that time that he met and married his wife, a nurse.

"When I became UQ Chancellor and started going to Hong Kong each year for graduation ceremonies about 17 years ago, Nat and I would always catch up, and we would do the same on his regular visits to Australia."

Sir Llew, born and raised in Ipswich, said his father would allow him to pursue higher study only after he had completed a four-year electrical apprenticeship.

"He had been a victim of the Depression, and he felt I ought to do a trade before anything else," Sir Llew said.

Sir Llew finished his medical degree in 1965 and worked as a GP for 10 years, in which time he delivered 2500 babies. He then went on to be State Member for Ipswich, the Queensland Minister for Health, Treasurer and Deputy Premier.

He was executive chairman of World Expo 88, and served as UQ's Chancellor for 16 years until his retirement last year. He was Queenslander of the Year in 1988, and last month the State Government named him a "Queensland Great".

Sir Llew, who graduated from UQ in 1965 as a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery, said his connections with the University had always given him "very great pride".

To him, it was "the greatest university in the world".

"I was the first person in our family who had gone to uni — they were mostly mining or tradespeople," he said.

"UQ gave me an opportunity for my life to be reasonably successful, so I always felt that I wanted to give something back.

"It was a very great honour to be appointed to the UQ Senate in 1992 after Sir James Foots retired as Chancellor.

"I owe a lot to the University of Queensland," Sir Llew said. "It will always hold a very special place in my heart."

Dalma Jacobs, president of the Alumni Friends of the University of Queensland Inc — which runs the Alumnus of the Year award — said Sir Llew had had an outstanding career devoted to the University of Queensland, the medical profession and the Queensland Parliament.

Sir Llew's friend and former classmate, Dr Yuen, said being named the 2010 International Alumnus was "a great honour".

Dr Yuen told UQ News that his memories from his student days were of the high standard of teaching, and of lecturers and students who were always "very nice, very helpful".

"The campus itself was very unique, with its beautiful trees and grounds," Dr Yuen said.

After receiving his UQ medical degree in 1965, Dr Yuen worked at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and at the Bundaberg General Hospital.

He moved back to his hometown of Hong Kong in 1969 and opened a medical practice in 1975, which still operates.

Dr Yuen has served on numerous medical boards, professional committees and councils in Hong Kong, including as vice-president and president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, and other roles with the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians and the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine.

Since 1985, Dr Yuen has held academic appointments at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong.

He served for 10 years on the Council of the City University of Hong Kong, was a member of the Working Party on Postgraduate Medical Education & Training in Hong Kong, served as chairman of the School Medical Service Board, and is now chairman of the Union Hospital board.

In 1995, UQ awarded Dr Yuen as an Honorary Doctor of Medicine and, in the same year, Dr Yuen donated The Nat Yuen Collection of Chinese Antiquities to UQ to coincide with the re-opening of Customs House in Brisbane. In 2005, he added more pieces to this already-extensive donation.

The Nat Yuen Collection spans more than 5000 years of Chinese culture, and is valued at more than $1.5 million.

Dr Yuen studied calligraphy under accomplished calligraphers, Ms Chik Kuk Wah and Mr Lo Yat Ngam, and in 2007 he masterminded a calligraphy exhibition at the UQ Art Museum.

Dr Yuen is also an accomplished master in the martial art of Kung Fu, and found fame in Australia in the 1960s when he introduced the art of Tong Long Kung Fu here.

Dr Yuen has keenly supported the UQ Hong Kong Alumni Association and has acted as Patron of the Faculty of Health Sciences Special Interest Group (Hong Kong).

He has been described as "a true gentleman and a scholar with a heart of gold".

Although Hong Kong is his home, Dr Yuen said after living in Australia for 14 years, he felt more Australian than Chinese. His wife Sandra grew up in Dalby, and both his children gained their university degrees in Australia.

Also presented at the "Courting the Greats" gala dinner on Saturday was the UQ Young Alumni of the Year award to Robert Dann, a Middle East peace negotiator with the United Nations.

Coincidentally, Mr Dann's father Des Dann worked at Princess Alexandra Hospital alongside Sir Llew and Dr Yuen, graduating a year ahead of them in 1964.

Media: Fiona Cameron, UQ Communications, ph 07 3346 7086, 0407 113342