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20 Questions with Labrador physician Dr. Michael Jong

Retired Happy Valley-Goose Bay family physician Dr. Michael Jong fell in love with Labrador and its people when he first arrived in the Big Land three decades ago. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Jong returned to the front lines at the Labrador Health Centre. - CONTRIBUTED
Dr. Michael Jong at home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. - Contributed


That’s what Michael Jong felt when he came to Labrador over 30 years ago.

A young doctor with a bit of a taste for adventure, he left his native Malaysia, spent some time in England and found his way to St. Anthony, where he took a summer trip to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The people were so friendly and welcoming, he said, he knew right away he belonged. He met his wife Cathy there and raised their two children, one of whom is now a young doctor working at the Labrador Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Jong is a pioneer in rural and remote medicine and has a list of accolades and awards to prove it.

When he retired in 2017, he was the vice-president of medical services for Labrador Grenfell Health, responsible for all medical services in Labrador, and was a full professor at Memorial University.

He came out of retirement recently to help join the battle against COVID-19, which he said he felt he had to do.

“I talked to my wife and kids, I told them I needed to do this, I had to do this, I’m OK with it if something happens to me. It’s a privilege to be able to help.”

Twitter: @evancareen

1. What is your full name?
Michael Khi Khong Jong.

2. Where and when were you born?
Malaysia, 1951.

3. Where do you live today?
Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

4. What’s your favourite place in the world?

5. Who do you follow on social media?
Eluid Kipchoge.

6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Quiet person — preferring to observe and not to say much.

7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
1986 when Cathy and I were married. We travelled during our honeymoon and have had a wonderful life ever since.

8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Not being there to see my mom when she asked for me and died before I got there. I was too busy at work to leave immediately. She died in Singapore.

9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
Sharing the end of life with a patient, their family and community in a tent — born in a tent and dying in a tent.”

10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
Hiking in pristine wilderness with just a daypack, supported by guide, porters and cook.

11. What is your favourite movie or book?
"Avatar." The theme regarding the circle of life and connecting with nature aligns with my being — who I am — part of nature.

12. How do you like to relax?
Running and walking.

13. What are you reading or watching right now?
All the latest publications and podcasts relating to COVID-19.

14. What is your greatest fear?
The collateral impact of the pandemic — poverty, hunger, other diseases that are not being taken care of.

15. How would you describe your personal fashion statement?
Comfort first and no waste. I wear clothes that I had since I was in my 20s and other hand-me-downs.

16. What is your most treasured possession?
My family.

17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
Caring and loving.

18. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
My wife, daughter and son.

19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
My best quality is not wasting time, keeping busy with living. My worst is not having enough patience.

20. What’s your biggest regret?
No regrets. I've had a full life, lived many lives through my family, friends, patients, their families, and communities who have shared their lives with me. It's a great privilege to be a rural family doctor. I wish I can do more and better, but I am lucky many younger doctors have taken over the work I used to do.


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