Technological developments in medical science can give new hope to the sick but the technology cannot be delivered effectively without the dedicated and caring medical practitioners who understand patients' needs.
Ho Wai-kuen, consultant and surgeon at the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Centre of Tung Wah Hospital, believes in the traditional virtues of his profession. "A good doctor should be proficient in professional knowledge and be able to make grounded judgements," Dr Ho says. "More importantly, a physician should try to acquire a comprehensive understanding of a patient's needs and consider the possible long- and short-term impacts they could have on the patients' health and life quality. Keeping this in mind can help us determine the best approach to medical treatment for each individual."
Dr Ho graduated in 1985 from the University of Hong Kong and immediately embarked on "the respectable career of curing people". He has since accumulated over 20 years of clinical experience in otorhinolaryngology. Not only does his job allow him to realise his dream of helping others, it also enables him to put his interest in biology to valuable practice. Moreover, he finds the job fits perfectly with his personality.
"It is important to be dedicated, learn from experience and keep improving"
"In general, physicians share some common characteristics," Dr Ho notes. "We are usually detail-minded and have a calm demeanour. We can think from the perspective of others and are dedicated to the job." However, the profession can also be categorised into different streams. "Practitioners in medicine like to spend more time drilling a subject in-depth, studying and analysing data, and are always looking for reasons," he says. "Whereas people in the surgery stream are proactive and like to see results quickly." Being in the surgery arm, Dr Ho enjoys the fast pace and gains satisfaction from overt results. He is also energised by the diverse scope of otorhinolaryngology. "The ENT Centre covers many types of surgery, spanning from minimal access to large scale operations. The variation is quite wide for different cases," he says.
The top concerns for doctors at the ENT centre are the patients' feelings and their overall quality of life. "If a patient's ear drum is ruptured, some people may not consider it a very serious problem, but if hearing is impaired it will affect the quality of daily life," Dr Ho says. "In the case of cancer of the larynx, the larynx can be removed to stop cancerous cells from spreading and the process may look complete from the surgical point of removing the tumour. But then we need to think about helping the patient to recover speech ability, perhaps by conducting 'speaking valve' surgery, aided by a prosthesis for voice rehabilitation."
The ENT provides clinical consultations and daytime ambulatory surgery and therapy. It is also used as a teaching centre for medical students. Though having been revamped as recently as last year, Dr Ho hopes to further expand the scope of services that the centre offers, such as adding balanced rehabilitation.
Dedication a must
It takes at least 12 years of study, training, practice and examinations before one can successfully register as a specialist. Dr Ho says this requires hard work, persistence and devotion. Moving up the career ladder, a senior and experienced medical professional is usually required to choose between management or clinical services. Dr Ho prefers the latter as he likes to be in the frontline.
Currently heading the team at the centre, Dr Ho leads a busy life and spends 80 per cent of his day offering clinical services. He also makes time for administrative work, research and teaching. Though it demands a lot of time and energy, he finds the job rewarding because he works with a team to directly benefit patients. "It is neither an easy job nor something that can make you a fortune," he says. "However, it is a meaningful career and it brings life-long satisfaction from helping others. It is important to be dedicated, learn from experience and keep improving, as well as to broaden your horizons, absorb new knowledge, exchange ideas and collaborate with different people to advance the development of medical services."