ALVIN CHONG NOW ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
Congratulations have been flowing in for Alvin who has just been appointed Associate Professor with the Department of Medicine at The University of Melbourne.
It’s an appointment that recognises his contributions to clinical leadership, dermatology education and research over the past 14 years.
“I was surprised but deeply honoured to receive this accolade and very pleased to be recognised.” Alvin said.
“What I do is only possible because of the support of my colleagues, mentors and team of registrars and fellows I have - both at St Vincent’s and at the Foundation. My work is not done in isolation. It takes a village,” he said.
For most of his career, Alvin has focussed on two key areas
- transplant dermatology and education.
In 2003 Alvin set up Australia’s first dedicated Transplant Dermatology Clinic at the Foundation. This is a sub-speciality clinic set up to manage patients who have had organ transplants, who have unique dermatological needs as the anti-rejection drugs they take increases the risk and burden of skin cancers.
Alvin identified that hospitals weren’t coping with the dermatological problems in transplant patients and developed a model of care to look after these patients at the Foundation. His leadership in treating transplant patients has been recognised worldwide. He has been invited to international conferences to present about the Transplant Dermatology Clinic and his research.
“The Foundation was very supportive in establishing the clinic and had great foresight to help look after these patients.” Alvin said.
“Over the years we have seen hundreds of patients in this clinic. We have gained invaluable experience, and also been able to educate registrars in treating transplant patients. We have been able to collect research data for publication. Most importantly, we have been able to provide a world-class clinical service to these patients. They are so grateful for the care that they have received from us.“
Dermatology education is also a focus of Alvin’s work.
“I have been involved in the education of post-graduate dermatology trainees for years and I am currently the Victorian censor for the College of Dermatologists.
“I’m always trying to get more dermatology teaching into university medical courses, where dermatology teaching is variable and often minimal. When doctors graduate many have a lack of understanding of this branch of medicine. I am actively involved in the teaching of dermatology to medical students at The University of Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital Clinical School.
“I also set up GP training workshops to provide a better understanding about skin cancers and dermatological diseases. For more than 10 years I’ve been facilitating these workshops which always prove to be very popular and worthwhile additional training for GPs and GP trainees. Every doctor we upskill can make a huge difference in the dermatological care of their community.” Alvin said.
In addition, Alvin is involved in Sunsmart as a clinical advisor.
He also runs a private practice which he
says keeps him engaged and stimulated.
“In my rooms, I am able to use my skill sets to provide better outcomes for my patients. Working in education I must keep up with the latest research and treatments.”
His approach to doctor-patient relationships is to form
partnerships with patients.
“I try and present the information they need to know and try and be there along their journey. Sometimes I must switch to paternalistic mode and say ‘just do it’ because I am always trying to provide the best outcome possible for the patient.
“My approach is quite holistic; I try and work out the clinical problem and try and communicate it to the patients in the way they understand. I believe learning is two-way – I learn from people, including my registrars – some are very empathic and have wonderful communication skills."
Trying to juggle all his different tasks does take its toll
at time. He loves travelling with his family and reading. He uses literature for stimulation and to
“I read broadly, but my favourite genre is “magic realism” or ‘slipstream’, a mixture of mainstream literature with elements of science fiction and fantasy. My favourite authors are David Mitchell, Kate Atkinson and the amazing Neil Gaiman. My all-time favourite book is Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”, an epic graphic novel which ran for seven years over 75 issues.
“I am very blessed because I have a very supportive wife. I also have a very supportive mentor in Professor Robin Marks, who gave me my first job as in academia as Lecturer in his department in 2003.
“Robin’s advice to me when things are tough is to just keep going – one step at a time – because you will get through it.
“It’s been good advice.”