The 2022 Kui and Wai Fong Lectureship was delivered by Professor David Hu from Georgia Institute of Technology. David Hu is a professor of mechanical engineering who draws inspiration from his observation of nature. Much of his work is showcased in his 2018 book, “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future.”
Professor Hu was brilliant. In every case, he transformed quirky animal trivia into rigorous scientific inquiry. He set the tone of the lecture by having a room full of surgeons pass around wombat feces. For the uninitiated, wombat feces are cubic. How is this possible, given that the wombat has a round rectum and anus. We also learned how elephant trunks could be simultaneously soft and flexible, but also hard and durable. Cat tongues are the ideal hairbrush prototype. Snakes don’t just slither; they “sense” the ground beneath them, pushing off the ground at certain touch points. Finally, we spent an inordinate time watching high-definition video footage of animals urinating (and more) and figured out animals of all shapes and sizes manage to spend the same amount of time urinating. Many excited urologists ran up to the stage after that.
Professor Hu has mentored many students of different races and ethnicities, including many Asian Americans. We discussed how many Asian Americans suffer generational dissonance. He recalls being accepted into combined pathway to medical school out of high school. To his parents’ dismay, he decided to attend MIT and pursue a research career. Turning tremendous success into a disappointment has been a longtime hallmark of Asian parents. He emphasized normalizing the Asian American experience as a means of overcoming prejudice and misconceptions. Organizations like SAAS can help Asian American trainees find mentoring and a sense of community.
The Kui and Wai Fong Lectureship was established by Dr. Yuman Fong to honor his parents, as well as all the parents that have supported the success of Asian American surgeons. Fong Kui Lam was a civil engineer that was the first in his family to attend college. Fong (Tang) Wai Yuet was a seamstress. Fong Kui Lam and Fong Wai Yuet emigrated to San Francisco in 1969 in search for better opportunities for their children, Dr. Yuman Fong, Chung Kau (Kelly) Fong, and Chung Yin (Joan) Fong.