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November 10th, 2008:

Professor’s Efforts To Help Smokers Quit

US academy honours professor for efforts to help smokers quit

Colleen Lee – Updated on Nov 10, 2008 – SCMP

Sophia Chan Siu-chee noticed in the early 1990s that while doctors were advising patients to quit smoking, there were no medical workers helping them to do so.

So she decided to train nurses to help smokers kick the habit – and yesterday, her efforts won her international recognition.

Professor Chan, head of the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Nursing Studies, became the first Hongkonger to be named an international fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

“I feel very honoured and happy,” said Professor Chan, one of three international fellows chosen this year.

She said that in the early 1990s, no medical staff were dedicated to helping smokers quit.

“When a doctor saw a patient smoking, he might just advise him not to smoke. And that was it … no one would do any follow-up.”

From 1993 to 1999, she studied part-time for her doctorate in public health at the University of Hong Kong, devoting herself to studying the use of counselling to stop smoking. Once she graduated, she decided to help promote that idea in the community.

She said that since 2000, she had helped the Hospital Authority train about 200 nurses in such skills. These nurses later played a key role in the authority’s Smoking Counselling and Cessation Centres, founded in 2002. The centres now number 16.

Professor Chan said she hoped her fellowship would encourage nurses in Hong Kong, adding that their morale had recently been affected by a staff shortage.

“Many nurses here work very hard … I hope more and more local nurses will be awarded fellowships by the academy,” she said.

Professor Chan said she next planned to study women’s smoking rates globally to find out the possible reasons for differences in various places. She said, for example, that Hong Kong and Japan were both metropolitan, but smoking was less prevalent among local women than those in Japan.

Professor Chan and the other two international fellows named this year were inducted along with 89 Americans as fellows at a ceremony in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The academy, set up in 1973, aims to anticipate American and international trends in health care and to address relevant issues.

The fellowship recognises individuals’ contributions to nursing and health care.