Dr Man Kim Li was born in Hong Kong. He began studying medicine at Hong Kong University shortly before the Japanese invasion on 8 December 1941. During the attack, Man Kim drove an ambulance and tended to war casualties. After Hong Kong’s defeat on Christmas Day 1941, Dr Gordon King, dean of medicine, arranged for over 100 medical students, including Man Kim, to flee Hong Kong and continue their studies in free China.
During the treacherous journey, Man Kim perched precariously on a pile of luggage on the back of a truck. Also on this truck was a fellow student who tragically did not survive the journey.
Li Man Kim continued his medical studies at Cheeloo University, one of several universities which shared a campus in Chengdu during the war. Cheeloo University was sponsored by American, English, and Canadian missionary groups, and had connections with the University of Toronto.
Despite simple living conditions and meagre food supplies, he and his classmates managed to keep their spirits up. At a variety show with a number of US soldiers in the audience, Man Kim entertained the crowd by performing as a female hula dancer. His disguise was so convincing that a soldier expressed interest in meeting “her.”
While this meeting did not occur, fortunately, he did meet his future wife, Wong Suk Wah, a gifted music student of Ginling College. At first she played hard to get. Man Kim coped with the rejection by humming his favorite hymn, “Be Still My Soul.” Eventually, she was won over by his charms, and they married a few years later.
After the war ended, Li Man Kim was able to return to Hong Kong to complete his training. He received his MBBS and MD in 1947. He furthered his studies in England at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine where he obtained his DTM&H. During the postwar baby boom, there was a great need for obstetrical services in Hong Kong. Dr Li was very skilled in obstetrics and became a popular instructor on the maternity wards.
He opened and ran St. Andrews Maternity Home together with friends Dr Peter Fok, Dr Alison Bell Fok, and Dr Peter Lim. Dr Li also ran a successful family practice in Hong Kong. He was well loved by his patients, and became well known for providing care on a sliding fee scale according to patients’ ability to pay, and for providing medications free of charge to the disadvantaged.
Meanwhile, at home, Man Kim’s family was growing. In addition to supporting his own five children, he also supported and mentored numerous extended family members and close friends. Daily life in Hong Kong was interrupted in 1967 by pro-communist riots inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution. As the violence intensified, Man Kim became concerned for his family’s safety, and immigrated together with his family to Vancouver in 1968.
Dr Li passed his LMCC exam and began an internship in New Brunswick. On his return to Vancouver he opened a private practice in Chinatown, and later practised at the Seymour Medical Clinic for several years before returning to Hong Kong. As Man Kim approached retirement age, he worked half-time, alternating every 3 months with his good friend, Peter Fok. Man Kim retired in 1989.
Apart from medicine, Man Kim developed a great interest in fine arts starting in the 1950s. He excelled in photography and oil painting, and became a member of the Royal Photographic Society. Man Kim loved to wander through the morning mist, capturing exquisite images with his Rolleiflex camera. His artwork won prizes in competitions and has been displayed internationally. In retirement, Man Kim’s focus turned to Chinese calligraphy and watercolor painting. At the age of 80, he held an exhibit entirely of his own artwork.
Last autumn, after a courageous battle with heart disease and cancer, Li Man Kim died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family. He will be remembered for his compassion, generosity, and humility. Man Kim is dearly missed by his beloved wife of 61 years, Suk Wah; his five children, Yvonne, Robert, Katherine, Sylvia, and Winnie; seven grandchildren; and many other family members and friends.
—Winnie Kwok, MD
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