Imperial College London

Professor Chen Zhu receives unique honour from Imperial


Professor Chen Zhu receives honorary degree

Pioneering medical researcher and healthcare reformer Chen Zhu has become the first ever recipient of an Imperial honorary doctorate in China.

Professor Chen, currently Vice Chair of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China and a former Health Minister, received the Doctor of Science honoris causa on 21 July 2014 at a special ceremony in Beijing in recognition of his world-class contribution to science, medicine and public health.

Professor Chen's work has improved countless lives.

– Sir Sebastian Wood

British Ambassador to China

Professor Chen, who is globally renowned for his contributions to the treatment of leukaemia, also serves as President of the Chinese Medical Association, Director of Chinese Human Genome Center in Shanghai (CHGC), Honorary Director of the Shanghai Institute of Hematology and Director of the Shanghai Center for Systems Biology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The prestigious award from the world top ten university was conferred by Imperial's President & Rector Sir Keith O'Nions at the British Ambassador's residence in Beijing.

This is only the second Imperial degree ceremony ever to take place outside of London in more than 100 years of the College's history. Imperial degrees are usually awarded in London's iconic Royal Albert Hall at ceremonies in October and May.

Sir Keith O'NionsSir Keith O'Nions, President of Imperial College London, said:

"This is the first ever Imperial degree ceremony to take place in China, and I cannot think of a more worthy recipient.

"Excellence in science, technology, medicine and business is key to improving the health and wealth of nations, and Professor Chen has done much to promote that excellence.

"Imperial has fast-growing connections with China - we are the UK's number one research collaborator with the People's Republic, and 14% of our students are Chinese. It feels wholly appropriate to host this special degree ceremony in China."

Tackling global challenges

Sir Sebastian Wood

Sir Sebastian Wood, British Ambassador to China

Sir Sebastian Wood, British Ambassador to China, said:

"I extend sincere congratulations to Professor Chen Zhu on the award of an honorary doctorate for his outstanding contributions to science, medicine and public health.

"Professor Chen's work has not only been published in the world's leading scientific journals, but has also improved countless lives through the development of new treatments and a cure for acute promyelocytic leukaemia.

"This is yet another example of the ever-stronger links between the UK and China in education, health and research, and demonstrates the importance of our collaboration in tackling global challenges."

Professor Chen ZhuOn receiving his award, Professor Chen said:

"As President of Chinese Medical Association, I would like to take this honour more as recognition of and encouragement to the contributions made by Chinese medical and scientific communities to the protection and improvement of people’s health.

Professor Chen has transformed our understanding of acute promyelocytic leukaemia.

– Professor Dermot Kelleher

Vice President (Health)

"Premier Li Keqiang’s successful visit to UK last month resulted in the founding of a joint science foundation by the two governments with a total sum over £200 million to strengthen the collaborations on scientific innovation. It can be said that globalization has created new opportunities for the collaborations between universities and industries of the two countries. The novel industry-university cooperation mode is the new trend in Sino-UK scientific cooperation and mirrors the ever deepening relations between the two countries.

"I sincerely wish for more universities, scientific institutions and industries to follow the example of Imperial College London and be actively devoted to the collaborations on innovation, to lay a solid foundation for the strengthening and development of a comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the UK."

Remarkable achievements

During the ceremony, Professor Dermot Kelleher, Vice President (Health) at Imperial, read a citation honouring Professor Chen's contributions.

Professor Dermot KelleherProfessor Kelleher said: 

"The values of Professor Chen Zhu and Imperial College London are strongly aligned.

"At Imperial, we aim not only to produce world-class education and research, but we also work to apply the fruits of those endeavours for the benefit of the wider world.

"Similarly, Professor Chen has taken his distinguished work as a medical researcher and applied this expertise for the benefit of Chinese, and indeed global, public health.

"Professor Chen's research has transformed our understanding of acute promyelocytic leukaemia, aiding the development of new treatments and cures.

Keith speaking at the ceremony"During his six years as Minister of Health for China, Professor Chen led a series of ambitious and successful reforms that improved access to high-quality healthcare throughout the country. His achievements are all the more remarkable given the public health challenges, like SARS, that the ministry dealt with during this period.

"Since leaving his ministerial post, Professor Chen has remained engaged with public health issues, helping raise the profile of air pollution, as he continues to drive-up standards and wellbeing for the Chinese people."

A list of previous recipients of Imperial College London honorary degrees can be viewed here. The only previous Imperial graduation ceremony to take place outside of London was an event for Asian honorary award recipients, held in Singapore in 2007: Imperial's centenary year.


Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
Communications Division

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