Roger Ong is a Pomona College alumni from the class of 1989. He graduated with a degree in chemistry and biology and from there went to UCLA medical school. Currently, he is working as a general internist at Kaiser Permanente in Long Beach where he has been practicing since 1996.
1.) What was your most valuable student experience while at Pomona (sports, internships, extracurriculars, on-campus job, etc.)?
The transition from high school to college for me, was also the change from the comfort and safety of childhood to the uncertainties of being a young adult. The independence and unlimited potential that came with this adjustment, while exciting and refreshing, also meant I was now responsible not just for my academic success, but for my personal and social growth. Pomona of course has an unparalleled scholastic environment. What I think I benefited most though from my 4 years there would have to be learning to gradually balance a rigorous class load, extracurricular activities, new friendships and trying to also squeeze in fun and relaxation. Pomona's intimate and comfortable campus size as well as the small student population always made life seem calm and never rushed. I truly feel that I "grew up" during my years at Pomona and was ready to face whatever life brought next.
2.) What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What is most rewarding?
The biggest challenge I face at work, is oftentimes also linked to my most rewarding aspect of the job. On a daily basis, I meet with patients, young and old, who have chronic, frequently serious health conditions. Human nature dictates that all too often, most people would rather ignore or postpone the treatment of their illnesses, almost to the point of severe complications. It's, of course, very frustrating for me to sit in front of someone and try to help them maintain their health, all the while knowing that the next time I see them, nothing will have changed. With some perseverance and luck though, there are those patients that actually benefit from my care. I will have done or said something that will directly or indirectly have saved someone's life or at least improved their quality of life.
3.) What do you wish you’d known when first starting out in your career?
Two things. First, you can't save or heal everyone. Some people just don't listen or don't care about their well being so it's important as a doctor to realize that you can only do so much for a patient. Help the people that want to help themselves but also know when to just leave someone alone. Second, the purpose of practicing medicine is not always to save someone's life. There are times when the best and most humane thing you can do for a patient is to know when to stop or withhold treatment, let nature take its natural course and allow someone to pass away with peace and dignity.
4.) What is the most difficult interview question you’ve been asked?
The most difficult question is probably also the most commonly asked one: why do you want to be a doctor? Every medical school interview I did had some version of that question brought up. I'm fairly sure most if not all prospective medical students don't have a good answer for this question, since there's really no experience that can prepare a person for what a career in medicine entails. Even after finishing medical school and residency, it still took me several years of being in practice to realize the significance of and be happy with my career choice.
5.) Was your first job after graduating from Pomona related to your current profession?
My first job was the only job I've held for the last 22 years, being a general internist at Kaiser. In this sense, it was very easy for me to transition from the years of schooling to beginning a practice.
6.) How do you stay up to date on trends within your industry? (books, professional associations, journals, conferences)
All physicians are required to keep up with current issues and trends in medicine by showing they have completed at least 25 hours per year of medical education. This is done through attending national conferences, reading journals and talking to colleagues about interesting cases either at noon meetings or grand rounds.