China-US / Chinese Community Leaders

Danny Fong: Healing locally and nationwide

By Zhang Fan in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-05-09 11:47

 Danny Fong: Healing locally and nationwide

Danny Fong, president of Chinese American Medical Society and also a well-known Chinese American doctor who specializes in plastic, reconstructive and hand surgery. Zhang Fan / China Daily

The Chinese American Medical Society of New York has a two-pronged mission, according to Dr Danny Fong, its president.

"We help doctors of Chinese descent through their medical school and training, providing scholarships and other support, and we encourage them to join us when they're ready, so they too can make a contribution to our community," Fong said.

Established in 1964, the Chinese American Medical Society (CAMS), with more than 1,200 members nationwide, is one of the largest Chinese-American medical organizations in the United States.

The society serves as a platform for doctors to share knowledge and experience, as well as providing financial aid. From 1973 to 2013, the society has awarded about 166 scholarships.

"We want to encourage [recipients] to do the same for others. Because somebody helped us, we need to pass it along," said Fong, who specializes in plastic, reconstructive and hand surgery.

Fong said there were a lot of health issues that affect Chinese Americans in particular and the society could help address those issues and encourage other doctors and drug companies to develop special treatments and medicines.

Danny Fong: Healing locally and nationwide

"The CAMS has evolved into a more vocal organization for Chinese-American patients," Fong said. "We conduct special research and enhance the social awareness of our problems."

Fong was born in 1961 in New York City's Chinatown, the younger son of a large family that moved to the US from Guangdong province, China.

His mother, a former nurse in Hong Kong, helps new immigrants who cannot speak English access health care and treatment.

"Lots of people still remember the help she gave them," said Fong. "Her kindness really influenced my brother and me. We saw her as a role model and decided to help people too."

Fong's brother, Raymond, is an eye doctor who has several clinics in New York. Along with his brother, Fong started to volunteer to work in a local clinic at 16, helping people who knew no English.

"Chinatown was very different 50 years ago," Fong said. "The volunteer work helped us form an idea of what was needed to help the community, especially those who were not as fortunate as we were since we were able to learn English and attend local schools."

The idea of "helping the community" further solidified after he graduated from the University of Rochester medical school in 1986. Among the more than 100 medical students, only four were of Asian descent, including two Chinese and one Korean. Fong said there were a lot of racial issues back then and he had to learn to be a "minority".

"That is a strong part of what defined me because I realized that I was different and had a different background," said Fong. "That made me decide that I really needed to go back to Chinatown and help others like myself in order to make more Chinese able to go to good colleges, good medical schools and become doctors."

With such determination, Fong opened his own clinic in 1993 after seven years of medical training. According to his wife, Estelle, most of his patients were Chinese Americans at the start, but today at least 50 percent are non-Chinese.

On web-based urban guide Yelp, Fong's patients write that Fong is very efficient and has "good performance". Dana M from Manhattan praised him for successfully setting her broken finger in just 20 minutes.

Danny Fong: Healing locally and nationwide

"I feel fortunate that some of my patients travel all the way to Chinatown to see me," he said. "A couple of weeks ago, I had a patient who came all the way from Dubai to have surgery here."

Fong said he learned Chinese dialects from his grandmother and people feel comfortable with him. It's a way for him to be of "value to the community", he said.

At the same time, Fong said, being a quality doctor helps improve the image of Chinese Americans in general, which is also important.

"When patients learn that I am Chinese American, they often have the impression that Chinese are good at medicine," he said. "Some of my patients even tell me they think I must be good at medicine since I am Chinese. That makes me very proud."

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), there were about 5,375 Chinese doctors working in the US in 2010. The number is even higher if Chinese-American doctors are included.

The CAMS is deeply involved in all areas of the American medical field, according to Fong. "However, there is one area that needs more attention - we need to improve our leadership in medicine. We have a lot of doctors out there but not a lot in leadership roles, such as chairmen of programs or heads of medical societies."

In 2013, Rober M. Wah, a Chinese-American physician in Washington, was elected president of the AMA, the nation's largest physician organization. He is serving as president-elect for one year and will be sworn in as AMA president in June.

"It is fortunate that we have a Chinese-American president of the AMA," Fong said. "He will enlarge our group's voice."

Fong added: "And I think we can do better still. For example, we haven't had a Chinese-American Surgeon General yet. With a joint effort by the community, I believe we can achieve that goal."

(China Daily USA 05/09/2014 page11)

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