Information Services Office   19.4.2012


Prof. Samuel Y.S. Wong
Newsletter No. 396 > Thus Spake… > Prof. Samuel Y.S. Wong, The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care

Prof. Samuel Y.S. Wong, The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care


Family medicine has been very much in vogue. Can you explain what it is?

Family medicine is a medical specialty that can be studied and practised in many parts of the world, including Hong Kong. It is patient-centred and provides patients with early, comprehensive and continuous medical care. A family doctor is usually the first medical professional that a patient sees. He/she often maintains a long-term relationship with the patient and coordinates various services for the patient’s health. He/she does not only fix the biological disorders but also advises on prevention, early detection and management of illness by means of dietary and psychological counselling.

What made you want to study family medicine?

I had a wide spectrum of interests and I did not want to become too specialized in just one aspect of medicine. Family medicine would enable me to come into contact with a wide spectrum of patients and understand a greater range of diseases, symptoms and cases. In the course of rendering health services to these patients I would have to look at their mental or psychological well-being as well. This satisfies my interest in and curiosity about human beings.

What does the Division of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care at the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at CUHK set out to achieve?

This division aims to achieve excellence in teaching, research and service in family medicine. Our emphasis is on personal patient care rather than population health care issues. Our new initiatives include a programme funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club to take a multidisciplinary and biopsychosocial approach to rendering holistic health care to disadvantaged patients. Some common forms of illness can be more effectively managed with the involvement of a multidisciplinary primary care team. As a result, not only doctors but nurses, physiotherapists and social workers are also involved.

How do you see the relationship between body and mind?

What happens physically in the body may affect the psychology, the mind; and one’s emotions may in turn affect bodily functions. My research interests include the effect of meditation or mindfulness on health. Positive results have been found in patients suffering from cancer or depression, and I am interested to know more about the effects of mindfulness on reducing pain, anxiety and chronic stress, and in addressing present-day public health issues such as obesity and insomnia.

What public health issue(s) is(are) Hong Kong facing or will be facing?

An aging population like that in Hong Kong will inevitably face heath care issues for the elderly, such as how we should provide for the elderly in terms of medical services and whether it is sustainable. The quality of air seems to be on constant decline too, which would have serious implications on our health. I see care for the elderly and air pollution as the over-arching problems. But I also believe that by approaching these problems in a realistic and pragmatic manner we can arrive at solutions. We need more medical professionals and policy-makers with a holistic and bio-social orientation.

Did you know that you’d become a medical doctor when you were little?

I always had great interest in various subjects in the arts and sciences, in particular biology. When I was in university in Canada, I studied human biology and psychology. After my undergraduate studies, I looked for a discipline that would integrate my various interests and training, and the medical profession appeared to suit my appetite. If I had not gone into medicine, I might have become an experimental psychologist, as I quite relished my experience as an intern in a psychological laboratory one summer in Canada. Again, it’s not far from the study of the mind and the behaviour of human beings.

What kind of books do you read?

I like reading books on psychology, and religion or spiritual matters. Social psychology was an eye-opener to me as a university student. It closed the gap between the scientific knowledge I gleaned from books and the social reality that stared me in the face. Recently, I’ve been fascinated by health or positive psychology as it is related closely to public health. It does not look at disease in isolation but at the whole concept of wellness and how well-being can be improved. Medicine is still very much a disease-focused discipline. We need to think out of the box to truly derive intelligent answers to the health issues around us.

What do you do besides teaching and research?

I have participated in activities of animal rights groups. I love pets and I have three cats, two dogs and eight parrots. I must therefore speak for them. I am a council member of the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians and take an active part in its research activities. I am also the chief editor of the College’s official journal, The Hong Kong Practitioner.

You are young for a professor. What effect does that have on your teaching of medical students or treating of patients?

I might know the students a little better because I understand the language they speak and the media they use to socialize and express their views. But it really comes down to whether you make an effort to understand and communicate with them and relate to them as real persons. It’s the same with patients.

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