INTERVIEW WITH MARY LEUNG, MD
What guided your decision to go into medicine and specifically, your chosen field?
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a physician. Growing up in a physicians’ household, I recall my parents would oftentimes discuss patients with challenging conditions at the dinner table, and what they could do to help those patients. Helping people in need has always been my passion, and going into medicine was naturally my path to achieve that.
When I was in college, my grandmother collapsed on the floor one day and was rushed to the hospital. In retrospect, she lost a significant amount of weight in several months preceding that. She was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, unknown type. She briefly gained consciousness and enough to have some conversation with the family before passing away, 10 days after her hospitalization. I could not help but think that if only I could have helped the detection of that cancer sooner, my grandmother probably would have lived past her 80s. During this process, I learned that the diagnosis of cancer could be frightening not just for the patients, but sometimes more for the family members. I experienced how my mother handled this ordeal, and how she knew when to shift the goal of cure with aggressive intervention to the goal of comfort in a matter of days. At that point, I knew I wanted to be an oncologist. I wanted to have the knowledge to accurately diagnose the patients, provide them with treatment options, give the patients and their families emotional support, and the balance between treatment interventions and the quality of life.
“It goes beyond being able to diagnose one’s disease or condition. It is the human connection that brings us together in a special bond, the mutual trust, and the ultimate desire to help with the best of our abilities.”
What are the most important qualities for a doctor to have?
As a doctor, it is important to have compassion – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to experience and feel what is going on with them. It goes beyond being able to diagnose one’s disease or condition. It is the human connection that brings us together in a special bond, the mutual trust, and the ultimate desire to help with the best of our abilities.
The desire to always learn and improve oneself is also important. We learn something new every day. The medical field is evolving rapidly. It is important for a doctor to incorporate new found knowledge into the everyday practice of medicine in order to benefit the patients.
The ability to communicate with other medical specialists in patient care is also very important. Oftentimes, especially in the field of oncology, there is no absolute right or wrong answer. It is essential to have a multi-disciplinary approach to tailor the best treatment plan for individual patients.
What is the most important factor in the doctor/patient relationship and why?
Mutual trust is the most important factor. The doctor-patient relationship is always a two-way street. I think of it as teamwork with a common goal that we set and adjust from time to time, given the circumstances. Trust involves openness and honesty in both parties. I am always honest with my patients in the discussion of their diagnosis, treatment options and prognosis.
What can a patient expect when they have you as a doctor?
New patients are often anxious when they step into the oncology office. On the other side of my door, they will find a doctor who is pleasant, non-judgmental, and eager to help. I will have reviewed all of their available records and will have known them medically. I give the patients the time they need to discuss their issues and concerns, and provide them with possible solutions and emotional support. They can expect a doctor who is always keeping up to date with the latest advances in my specialty. I will continue to do the same with established patients. I treat all my patients as human beings and not just their disease. Oftentimes I also have conversations with them about things not medically related, and we will talk about those things we discussed during the next visit, such as the number of sit-ups they did that morning, the art project they are working on, or their travel plans.
“I treat all my patients as human beings and not just their disease.”
What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my family on the beach. I enjoy swimming, fishing, picking seashells or pebbles with my kids or simply sitting on the sand to soak in the warm sunlight and admire the ocean. I also enjoy our family time playing in the backyard, roasting marshmallows, or building an igloo. Any family time is a precious and fun time.
You recently joined the Doctorpedia team as a Founding Medical Partner. What about Doctorpedia resonates with your personal and professional mission?
Doctorpedia is an online resource that is doctor-vetted to provide accurate and concise medical information for patients and their families. As its name implies, Doctorpedia is the modern-day encyclopedia that is trustworthy with a limitless wealth of knowledge to share with the world. My mission is to help patients to the best of my abilities. Doctorpedia can reach, educate and help far more people than what I can do in my office. Users can find and learn information at their own pace, at any time of the day, and get a trusted source of knowledge in different specialties, with a few simple clicks on their devices. With more knowledge, patients can make better decisions, including lifestyle modifications and disease prevention.
“My mission is to help patients to the best of my abilities. Doctorpedia can reach, educate and help far more people than what I can do in my office.”
What would you do for a living if you weren’t a doctor?
I would love to be a baker, to make delicious and beautiful desserts for people to enjoy. My current baking skill is eons away from being considered capable – maybe one day!
Mary Leung, MD
Hematology and Medical Oncology
Dr. Leung is triple board certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology, and Medical Oncology. She is currently practicing hematology and medical oncology in Long Island, New York and has an established clinical practice mainly in the outpatient setting. Dr. Leung’s interest is in breast cancer, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.