THE BUSINESS OF FIGHTING CANCER

TONY HUNG TURNED PERSONAL GRIEF INTO A COURAGEOUS CAREER PATH

written by TAMAR LADDY
photography by JUSTIN FANTL

 

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Tony Hung (MD/MBA '13) has a long history with Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. As a teenager and later as an undergraduate at UCLA, he paced the halls of the hospital's subterranean oncology unit while his mother underwent chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. Unable to afford health insurance, Hung's mother often drove herself back and forth to the county hospital while his father worked extra jobs to cover the mounting bills. Whenever possible, Hung would accompany his mother to Harbor, helping pass the time while she waited to be seen.

Hung, whose family moved to Arcadia, California from Hong Kong in 1996, also served as an interpreter between the Harbor medical team and his parents. When his mother's oncologist determined the cancer was terminal, it fell to Hung - then a sophomore at UCLA - to deliver the news. Hung says his mother's battle with cancer was the driving force in his decision to apply to medical school and to pursue a joint degree in business through UCLA's Anderson School of Management.

Once trained in oncology and entrepreneurship, Hung plans to build a series of fully integrated cancer treatment centers that offer affordable, comprehensive treatment for cancer patients. Patients and their families would have access to the best cancer diagnostics and therapy, and a spectrum of services from preventative care, to nutrition and exercise consultations, to yoga and Tai Chi classes, psychiatric support, pain management, and Eastern medicine treatment. "This is a one-stop-shop for cancer patients," Hung says. "They'll get the support that they need in this very difficult time in their lives."

To realize his vision, Hung is immersing himself in business school classes in operations and organizational behavior. These lessons, says UCLA Anderson Associate Professor Bruce Carlin, are critical for all doctors - not just those with entrepreneurial aspirations. "All medical education should require some training in operation research, economics and finance so that when doctors make decisions, they understand the ramifications the decision has, not just in terms of fighting the disease, but in terms of using scarce resources," he says.

Carlin knows of what he speaks: He himself was a renowned urologist and surgeon before attending business school at Washington University in St. Louis. While he no longer practices medicine, Carlin says his training as a doctor - specifically the mechanics of conducting a clinical trial - has enhanced his current research in experimental economics.

Clearly, integrating medicine and management education can be useful in a variety of career paths, but Hung has no doubt of his direction. His singular goal is to improve the lives of cancer patients like his mother, taking into account the many layers of hardship illness can present for a family with limited means. In a sense, Hung has a third area of expertise to bring to his career: the understanding that comes from having travelled down a parallel road to one his patients will encounter. But under his care, Hung hopes to provide a much smoother journey.

Tony recommends three cancer related programs:

National Breast Cancer Foundation
A charity that is close to my heart for women like my mother who suffered from breast cancer.

UCLA Center for East-West Medicine
Dr. Ka-Kit Hui at the Center of East West Medicine has been an influential mentor.

UCLA Genetic Oncology Lab
I have been working with Dr. Uptal Banerjee on the leukemia and genetic research project.