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Doctor in front lines of cancer fight

Ronnie Poon Tung-ping came to our lunch appointment after a busy morning.

A packed schedule is routine for doctors. Poon was unperturbed, and told me it was still possible to find time to enjoy a good lunch. He then ordered roast beef and red wine.

Poon is a cancer specialist and medical director at the privately-run Hong Kong Integrated Oncology Centre.

“I was in Singapore attending a medical conference and had the opportunity to learn about non-government cancer treatment services run by enterprises. These facilities are well received by people there.

“That set me thinking. I may stay in university doing research. But I can also venture into something new and leave the ivory tower to do more frontline work on cancer prevention,” he said.

So he joined the oncology center. Set up in 2015, the facility has a professional team that provides patients with one-stop total care. Its operation is well on track, enabling Poon to teach at university.

“Total care” means the service encompasses both diagnoses and treatment. The center’s cutting-edge equipment and facilities include trimodality PET/CT-MRI, oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy and small operating theaters.

It operates during the day as most treatments don’t need overnight stays.

“Some intravenous therapies can be done within an hour, and targeted therapy involves only taking medication orally, and requires no hospital stays. Of course, we will make the arrangements for patients who need to be hospitalized,” he said.

Cancer is Hong Kong’s number one cause of death, killing 14,209 people in 2016. Bowel, lung, prostrate and liver cancer were the most common.

Said Poon: “Hong Kong needs more oncology facilities. Medical services take a long time to show a profit since it takes time to build up a professional team. But such efforts are laudable.

“Our hub is producing results after just a few years, and this is the fruit of team work. Our team of doctors work with one mind toward the same goal to create a Hong Kong brand name that we can be proud of.”

He recalled the case of a bowel-cancer-afflicted mainland woman who didn’t have much hope, but the center successfully cured her after treatment of close to a year.

The well-being of patients is the center’s priority concern. As a doctor, curing a patient gives him the greatest joy, Poon said.

Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung is the retired headmaster of Diocesan Boys School

(This article was originally published in the standard.)

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