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David Geffen School of Medicine

Reflection: Building a Legacy

  Drs. Sherman Mellinkoff and Ka-Kit Hui
  Drs. Sherman Mellinkoff and Ka-Kit Hui

Top: Dean Emeritus Dr. Sherman Mellinkoff (left) and Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, circa 1994-97. Bottom: Dr. Ka-Kit Hui teaching fourth-year medical students at UCLA CEWM.
Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Ka-Kit Hui

Ka-Kit Hui, MD’75 (RES ’78, FEL ’79), founder of the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, Wallis Annenberg Chair in Integrative East-West Medicine and chair of the UCLA Collaborative Centers for Integrative Medicine, is an educator and researcher with a broad-based knowledge of comprehensive medical care that stems from his specializations in internal medicine, clinical pharmacology, geriatrics and integrative medicine. His basic and clinical investigations have provided him with unique insights into both Western and traditional Chinese medicine.

My entire journey has been a miracle. My birthplace is Hong Kong, but UCLA and Los Angeles have been my home for almost half a century. I arrived at UCLA in 1969 to study chemistry, with the aspiration of introducing to the Western world a new drug from the Chinese herbal pharmacopoeia — like what the 2015 Nobel Prize Winner Tu Youyou did in introducing the antimalarial drug artemisinin.

Instead, my dream during medical school turned to creating a new medical model, blending the best of modern Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine to make healthcare more effective, safe, affordable and accessible to all. My vision of establishing this integrative-health model of comprehensive care, with emphasis on health promotion, disease prevention, treatment and rehabilitation through an integrative practice of East-West medicine, has been realized at UCLA. My form of integrative medicine is not an international buffet from which a provider randomly picks from among a disjointed assortment of therapies such as acupuncture or massage to add to a drug therapy. Instead, our practice at the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine (CEWM) is like a well-planned dinner menu, with the best and most appropriate therapies from the West and the East selected and targeted to the specific needs of each patient. This model has been extremely successful, and we receive referrals from more than 500 UCLA physicians from different specialties to help care for patients who have different refractory medical problems. At CEWM, we also teach hundreds of students annually through our many educational programs, including a summer course for trainees from around the world, medical-student courses, resident rotation and two-year East-West primary-care and specialty fellowships. On the basis of this incredible scientific and clinical success, we now are moving into primary and population care and expanding our collaboration and teaching into the larger local medical and patient communities.

This goal has been achieved over my 47 years of academic life at UCLA with much effort, strategic thinking and contributions from so many people. There is not enough space to list the numerous family members, patients, colleagues, friends, donors and foundations that helped me to achieve my goals, but a short list must include Dean Emeritus Sherman Mellinkoff, MD, who has been my mentor for the last 40 years, and Alan Fogelman, MD ’66 (RES ’71, FEL ’73), chair of the Department of Medicine, who enabled me to launch the center in 1993. Both have provided tremendous encouragement and support. Without the early support of Janet Stein of the Balm Foundation from New York, the endowed chair from Wallis Annenberg and Charlie Weingarten at the Annenberg Foundation, as well as the continuing support of Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer and Andrew and Peggy Cherng, and too many others to list, my vision would not be a reality. The Beatles were correct — we all need a little help from our friends.

And then there is my beloved late wife Shirley Hui. Her support allowed me to devote my full energy to realizing this dream. I believe that the stress of these early efforts contributed to the breast cancer that took her from me, but integrative medicine helped to keep her going for more than 11 years to enjoy our five beautiful grandchildren.

Crisis creates opportunity. In today’s healthcare environment, we are provided with a golden opportunity to transform the current system into one that is patient- and public-oriented and will provide us and future generations with healthcare that is safe, effective, accessible and affordable for all. It is my next dream to globalize this person- and healing-centered, self-empowering and prevention-focused model by disseminating it through innovative educational approaches to benefit people throughout the world.

To learn more visit the UCLA Center for East-West Medicine website.


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