Achieving International Standing
“He has a successful private practice, yet urologist Dr Michael Wong is still passionate about teaching and training fellow surgeons around the world.”

He has just celebrated the 10th anniversary of his private practice after spending nearly 22 years at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), but urologist Dr Michael Wong isn’t keen to focus on the achievements and milestones of his practice. He is chatting with THIS Quarterly in his consultation room on the premises of International Urology, Fertility and Gynaecology Centre (www.singaporeurology.com), which is located in Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. “I’d prefer to chat about my academic journey in urology since leaving public practice at SGH,” stresses the cheerful and friendly physician.

Instead, he wishes to reveal why and how he has continued with his academic and educational pursuits, and “achieved peer international standing that far exceeds any of my expectations” in parallel with a busy and successful private practice.

Peer international recognition

At the moment, the most prominent, internationally recognised academic position Dr Wong holds is Associate Editor at the British Journal of Urology, a post he has held since May 2013. “I am currently the only one from Asia-Pacific on the editorial board for BJUI Knowledge,” he reveals. “In fact, they are flying me up to London for an editorial board meeting in October, and I realise that there are no Asians except me — the others are from England, Europe and North America.”

He is concurrently the Deputy Director of the Asian School of Urology. He is in charge of the School’s academic curriculum, which serves to educate and train other urologists in Southeast Asia, Indochina, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand. He is also one of three cochairmen of the WHO 2nd International Consultation on Urinary Stone Diseases in Paris. This is a gathering of experts to discuss the latest developments in urinary stone disease and set international guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of stones. Each co-chairman represents the continents of the Americas, Europe and Asia; Dr Wong, of course, represents Asia. “It is a privilege to be given this appointment as this reflects my standing in the international urology community,” he adds.

Another international role that Dr Wong has under his belt is on the Board of Directors of the US-based Endourological Society. The society publishes an internationally renowned medical journal of its own. “I was appointed as one of the Board Directors and served my full five-year term,” he says. “To date, no urologist from ASEAN has been appointed to the Board!”

Teaching other urologists

“At this point in time, I spend easily one hour a day doing academic and editorial work online,” says Dr Wong of his work with the British Journal of Urology.

His job is to create an online platform for urologists from around the world to be updated with the latest development and research. The platform has an interactive online scientific and clinical content, which allows doctors to acquire Continuing Medical Education points and qualify for the Specialist Exit for residents and recertification examinations for senior urologists. “The journal has equalised access to knowledge for anyone with Internet access regardless of location,” he discloses.

How many modules would there be on the platform? “We are creating about 300 modules, and I am in charge of about one-sixth of that,” Dr Wong states. In fact, he has almost finished preparing all the content he is responsible for — “I am ahead of schedule”, he quips. But Dr Wong doesn’t necessarily produce all the content himself. With his regular and active participation in international urology conferences, Dr Wong has maintained friendships and collaborated with many urologists of world renown, and they are only too happy to contribute their knowledge and expertise. “For instance, I will call my good friend, who is Chairman of Urology from Duke University and an expert in a specific area of urology, to write a module for the journal. With an excellent IT team, we will turn it into an online module with interesting and interactive tools, including high-quality animation,” he shares.

Dr Wong feels that his amiable nature, openmindedness and tons of hard work have helped tremendously in this aspect of his work. “The fact that I worked in the US, my board directorship was in an American body, and I am lecturing regularly on the international circuit helps,” he surmises. “I just have to email them and they will work with one of their fellows to write the module.” He insists that friendship and camaraderie are great facilitators to get great minds to work and contribute to a common cause. “The greatest benefit from all this hard work over the past 15 years has been friendship, not just between doctors but also between our families as well.”

Organising workshops

As deputy director of the Asian School of Urology, Dr Wong has to plan academic programmes in collaboration with various regional urology bodies. “This year, I have organised surgical training workshops in Sri Lanka and Thailand, and I am going to Myanmar next. Next year, the plan is Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore,” he states.

With his go-getter nature, it is not difficult to see Dr Wong working with other Asian heads of national urology medical bodies to conduct workshops for their members, and then coaxing other experts to be speakers on relevant topics. “I enjoy the challenge of putting together a high-quality programme that will benefit many doctors,” he says with a smile.

Dr Wong’s warm and amicable nature is not reserved only for fellow surgeons. He has strong ties with other players in the medical industry, such as medical equipment producers and pharmaceutical companies, which provide crucial logistical support for these workshops.

MY FOOTPRINT IN SGH

As a member of the SGH management council and Pioneering Corporate Business Development Director of SGH from 2002 to 2007, I had the privilege of creating new business units that are still standing today:
• SGH Specialist Practice at Gleneagles Hospital
• SGH Private Facility at Block 7 Level One
• Facility for Musculoskeletal Centre
• Corporate Health Screening Centre
• Hyberbaric Medical Centre (which serves Navy, Burns and Vascular services)

The challenges of medical management were unbelievable, and is probably what I miss most since leaving SGH.