As an aspiring pre-medical student at Duke University, I have always been interested in
the healthcare industry and learning more about how these professionals do their jobs.
Furthermore, the field of ophthalmology fascinated me as my family has a history of bad
eyesight and I wanted to know more about how our eyes work and how doctors help patients
maintain this essential ability. Going home for winter break, I was fortunate to have the
opportunity to shadow Dr. Ming Chen, a family friend, on December 21 and January 4.
Dr. Chen, a decorated professor at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of
Medicine and past president of the Hawaii Ophthalmological Society, has decades of experience
practicing medicine and specializes in cataract and refractive surgery. Dr. Chen’s mastery of his
profession and command of his clinic is evident, as he sees patients in a very efficient and
organized manner. Utilizing both an electronic and physical system of medical recording and
note-taking, Dr. Chen is able to save information on his computer for future use, quickly record
notes, and present patients with a tangible copy of the visit’s summary and plan for future
appointments. In addition, Dr. Chen has a button which plays a tune when pressed, a tool for a
straightforward method of informing his staff that he is ready for the next patient. Whether the
patient came in for a routine check-up, cataract surgery follow-up, or because of discomfort, Dr.
Chen always had a clear plan for the appointment and calmly addressed the issues brought up in
the conversations. One line Dr. Chen said to a patient held particular meaning to me. When
informing a patient that she would need cataract surgery, Dr. Chen reasoned that “without sight,
there is no more life, so [we] need to help [the patient].” I believe this quote exemplifies Dr.
Chen’s passion for his work and care for his patients.
Dr. Chen also displayed his recognition of the importance of helping his patients feel
understood and listened to, as he would turn his body toward his patients, away from his
computer screen, whenever they were speaking or he had something to say to them. Moreover,
Dr. Chen sat on a chair, eye-level with his patients, eliminating physical and metaphorical power
imbalances. This body language allowed Dr. Chen to make his patients feel more welcomed and
cared for. Furthermore, Dr. Chen’s soothing tone of voice, ability to speak multiple languages
fluently, moderate pace of speech, and knack of describing medical terms and procedures with
simple language and gestures helped enhance his patients’ healthcare experience.
This experience shadowing Dr. Chen helped me understand more about the field of
ophthalmology, from the equipment and procedures involved in this profession to the typical
structure of a patient’s appointment. After observing Dr. Chen in his clinic, I am even more
inspired to become a doctor, as I also hope to alleviate pain and bring reassurance to others. I am
immensely thankful for this opportunity and will always remember what I learned from Dr. Chen
along my journey.