Dr. Eugene Hong is new in town, but he’s no stranger to the Tri-Cities.
Born in Canada and raised in the Seattle area, he would spend summers and school holidays in Pasco and other parts of Eastern Washington, helping his mom with her small businesses, including motels. He’d paint, landscape and shampoo carpets, and then head to the mall or into the outdoors during his free time.
His fondest Tri-City memories?
“The fishing. And we would do a lot of cherry-picking. ... We would pick enough cherries to essentially send to every human that we knew,” he said with a laugh.
Now 36, Hong is back in the Tri-Cities as a radiation oncologist at Northwest Cancer Clinic in Kennewick. He joined the clinic last month, one of two new physicians to come on board this year. The other is Dr. Robert Chin, who started in January.
“We were very lucky to be able to attract talent like that in the Tri-Cities,” said Dr. Sheila Rege, clinic medical director, of Chin and Hong.
She also described them as caring physicians who like to engage with their patients.
Chin also is 36.
But unlike his new colleague, he didn’t spend time in the Tri-Cities growing up. He was born in Beijing and moved to Los Angeles at age 8.
His wife, Nina Holly, an attorney, was familiar with the community, though.
She’s from the Seattle area.
They’ve quickly made the place a home.“It was a real find for us,” Chin said of the Tri-Cities, pointing to its accessibility and landscape with hills and open space, among other qualities.
Along with the community’s location and setting, Northwest Cancer Clinic’s technology, including the Varian TrueBeam treatment equipment, also was a draw for the physicians.
Chin has a medical degree and a doctorate in immunology from the University of Chicago, and he completed his residency at Stanford, a Varian development site.
Hong has a medical degree and a law degree from The Ohio State University and completed his residency at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, home to a premier radiation medicine program.
Both men have family ties to the medical field. Chin’s parents are physicians, and Hong followed in his uncle’s footsteps to become a radiation oncologist. Hong’s sister and several cousins also have gone into medicine, he said.
The young physicians said they’ve been warmly welcomed by the local medical community. They’re kicking around the idea of starting an “oncology journal club,” or gathering of physicians to discuss recent articles and clinical trials.
They’ve been welcomed by patients, too.
“Eugene talks to patients about fishing. Robert is into motorcycles; one of the patients brought in all the routes that he goes on,” Rege said, noting that “patients are really liking them.”
The feeling seems to be mutual.
Chin and Hong said they were attracted to radiation oncology in part because of the time it gives them with the men and women in their care.
“(It’s) still one of the few specialties where you get to spend an hour-and-a-half with a patient at the initial consultation,” Chin said, noting that the relationship grows during the period of treatment.
They said it’s rewarding work, too — helping patients in their cancer fights.
“In the academic centers where I trained and where I worked, you see your patients in the clinic and then you don’t see them outside,” Chin said.But it’s a different story here.
“I like the idea of this sort of atmosphere, where ... you can take your time, talk to patients, learn about their lives,” Hong said.
Cancer center also adds new doctors
The Tri-Cities Cancer Center also is welcoming a new physician.
Dr. Sue A. Mandell joins the Kennewick center as a radiation oncologist and medical director later this month.
She comes to the Tri-Cities from Central Maine Medical Center, where she led the radiation oncology department. Before that, she served as a radiation oncologist in the Navy.
The cancer center also brought on Dr. Juno Choe, who holds a doctorate along with his medical degree, earlier this year. He most recently worked at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and its cancer center, and before that was director of radiation oncology at Capital Oncology in Auburn.