Coming home: Family medicine resident Thomas Chong, MD
Covina native Thomas Chong, MD, learned an early lesson about health care: the importance of being present. According to Chinese tradition, family never leaves the bedside of ailing parents or grandparents; they take turns being there. Whenever his grandparents were hospitalized, Thomas was an important part of the family bedside rotation and frequently served as translator between physician and patient. His curiosity about medicine was piqued.
Song-Brown grant supports Family Residency
Dr. Chong is a second-year resident in Emanate Health’s Family Medicine Residency program. In 2018, thanks to California’s Song-Brown primary care residency program grant offerings, $500,000 of awards provided salary and training cost support for residents in the Emanate Health program. Dr. Maili Dalla Tor, Family Medicine Residency program director, has high hopes for the new family medicine residents working with the area’s underserved population. “There is a shortage of physicians willing to practice in certain communities,” she explains. “After completing the three-year residency, these family physicians are in a unique position to remain in our community and support patients from birth through the end of life.”
Thomas Chong is one physician who is planning to stay. As a graduate of UCLA and Ross University School of Medicine, he is ready to come home to practice his profession. He sees the uninsured and those in dire need of health care, and wants to give back to the communities which nurtured his family. The Emanate Health “family feeling” in the hospitals appeals to his sense of belonging: familiar faces stop to say hello.
The art of Family Medicine
Grateful for the Emanate Health residency program, Dr. Chong recognizes those who made it possible, starting with his parents, Leanh and Srun Chea Chong. “My parents had a profound effect on my work ethic and encouraged me every step of the way. When they arrived in the
United States from Southeast Asia, they learned English and worked hard to become small business owners and provide for their three children.” Thomas credits his aunt and uncle, Ly and Long Chong, with recognizing his compassionate nature and encouraging him to pursue a career in medicine.
Dr. Chong’s medical mentors, Dr. Dien Van Pham and Dr. Minh Nguyen, demonstrated the art of patient care in the outpatient setting—how to listen and try to resolve the problem most important to the patient. The Emanate Health Family Medicine Residency faculty taught him those without homes or health insurance need the most time as they have the highest chance of “slipping through the cracks.” Dr. Dumrong Tangchitnob and Dr. Edward Tangchitnob encouraged him to maximize the use of technology to teach and treat patients. Dr. Chinhnam Hathuc, his Family Medicine Residency mentor, is always available to guide and advise, whether it be about life or medicine.
Discovering that every patient can’t be healed has been one of Dr. Chong’s greatest challenges. “Recognizing the importance of communication is one of my most significant lessons. I’m not just treating the patient, but the family, too. Sometimes my patients can’t go home. I’m thankful I’m here to help.”
When Thomas Chong was born, his parents hadn’t decided on an English name. When the nurse came to the bedside asking for the baby’s name, his parents looked at the obstetrician standing by the bedside and asked for his name—it was Thomas.
“After completing the three-year residency, these family physicians are in a unique position to remain in our community.” – Dr. Maili Dalla Tor, Family Medicine Residency program director