Doctor awarded for work with disaster victims

Dr. Evelyn Wong of Glendale Adventist Medical Center said she is just an ordinary person, but her profession has given her the opportunity to do some extraordinary things.

On Nov. 5, Wong was recognized for one of those opportunities, when she helped lead a group of doctors that provided medical relief to the people of Haiti following the country's catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January.

The National Health Foundation honored Wong and her team with a 2010 Hospital Hero Award at a luncheon held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles during a yearly event hosted by Hospital Assn. of Southern California. The award is given to health-care professionals that go above and beyond the normal call of duty and, as a result, help create miracles for patients.

When Wong went to the ceremony, she said she felt very humbled and grateful just to be nominated and sit in a room filled with amazing stories and great doctors. She wasn't looking to be honored at all.

"I find the praise a bit uncomfortable actually," Wong said. "I'm just doing what I love doing. I don't do what I do to be recognized for it … That's the last thing I want."

Wong said she told her mother she wanted to be a doctor at the age of 4, because the young girl felt the need to help others. Wong finished her emergency medical training in 1993 at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance and began working as an emergency physician at Glendale Adventist immediately following her graduation.

She started her relief efforts in 2005 when she went overseas to Indonesia to help those affected by the tsunami.

"I was in Sri Lanka for about two weeks on the east coast where there was the most damage, and I had an amazing time helping others," she said. "I enjoyed taking care of people in that situation, and I thrived there as well."

When the disastrous earthquake struck Haiti in January, Wong wanted to help out right away. Through the same nonprofit organization that sent her to Indonesia and support from Glendale Adventist and the DAA, Wong assembled a team of two emergency doctors, one family practice physician, an obstetrician/gynecologist, an anesthesiologist, a nurse practitioner, two surgical nurses and an emergency nurse to strengthen her cause and bring medical aid to Haiti.

A week after the earthquake hit, Wong and her team were in Haiti saving lives. Wong's team worked in Port-au-Prince and Pétionville alongside doctors from around the world to provide assistance in any way they could, including amputations, treating infections and providing medications and medical equipment. In seven days, Wong said her team treated more than 400 patients daily, saved three lives and delivered four babies.

Her colleagues in Glendale took notice of Wong's efforts overseas.

"Dr. Evelyn Wong is very dedicated to being a great physician," said Morre Dean, president and chief executive of Glendale Adventist. "Her talent and compassion are evident in her daily work as an emergency physician at Glendale Adventist, and this allowed her to be a huge asset to the people of Haiti when they needed her most."

Wong said the experience was very humbling, and she considers some of her success stories miracles. In the end, her work in Haiti is one of the main reasons she wanted to become a doctor.

"I was really excited to go," she said. "What a great way to serve and help people. When I saw those images of people in Haiti before I left, I was heartbroken for them, for the people suffering. That's why I became a doctor, to alleviate suffering and tie up people's wounds. I find it a privilege and feel blessed to be able to do that."

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