University of Hawaii and Manoa
- Biology (B.A.) - 2002
- Psychology (B.A.) - 2002
Aloha. My name is Catherine Tsang and I am a Family Physician. My interest in medicine began with my parents who are registered nurses. Visiting their workplaces frequently since I was a toddler helped me become comfortable in the medical setting, and I was always fascinated by discussions of their workdays. As I grew older, I became involved in volunteering and developed a strong desire to serve others. During the 9th grade at Kailua High School, I also realized my leadership potential. Combining my love of medicine with service and leadership, I made the decision to become a physician during the summer after the 9th grade.
Completing my undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa was one of the best times of my life in many ways. What I learned inside and outside the classroom helped me grow into the person I am today. I was involved in multiple organizations on campus, did volunteer work and a volunteer preceptorship and also continued to pursue my lifelong love of music and dance by taking choir and dance classes. I also worked for the Kokua Program and as a laboratory assistant. After gaining more experience in the medical setting, I decided to pursue a dual major in biology and psychology.
My fondest memories of the Biology Department are working as a laboratory assistant for Dr. H. Gert de Couet. Not only did I learn practical things like using acetone to remove Sharpie markers from hard surfaces (I still use that one to this day!) but I was also given the honor of caring for the lab's fly stocks. The Drosophila flies had been specially bred for traits that everyone was working on in their experiments. So I had a great responsibility to care for them! They called me "The Fly Girl", like the dancers on "In Living Color".
I also participated in research in the laboratory. For one project, I had to sort glow-in-the-dark fly larvae under a black light so they could be used in an experiment I was assisting with. I was in the dark room by myself, so I would often practice singing my choir music to pass the time. To this day, I wonder if anyone heard me down the hallway!
In addition, I completed a directed reading/research project on the ethics of somatic cell gene therapy. After completing and presenting that project to our laboratory, I was given the honor of participating in the Tester Symposium, and was one of two undergraduate students who was invited to attend. It was a wonderful opportunity to practice public speaking and engage in scientific discourse.
But I would say the greatest benefit of working in Dr. de Couet's lab was the support I received in pursuing my goal of becoming a doctor. I was going to become the first physician in my family, and as many of you know, the road can be difficult at times. Doubting yourself sometimes is common! But knowing that people like Dr. de Couet and my colleagues at the lab believed in me helped keep me going through those rough times since they have seen so many other students go down
the same path.
And that was one example of the many connections I had made while I was a student at UH. For anyone who is studying there now, I would recommend to get involved and make connections since they will help you do whatever you want to accomplish in life.
But the other word of advice that I have for pre-meds is to get out there and get involved. Being involved in both medical and nonmedical volunteer opportunities, work and organizations helped me to become more well rounded and to learn more about life in general, which helped me better relate to my patients. Explore what you're interested in and try it out! The same goes for courses. You never
know what you might learn!
After graduating, I completed my MD at the John A Burns School of Medicine and my residency at the University of Hawaii Family Medicine Residency Program. I am so thankful that I was able to stay in Hawaii for all of my training and am committed to serve the people of Hawaii, as I have been since the 9th grade.
So what am I doing now? After residency, I did locum tenens (temp) work at Kaiser, Waimanalo Health Center and Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center for a few years. Then I was hired for a permanent position at Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center and worked there for 3 1/2 years. More recently, I received the opportunity to work with our family doctor in Aiea (we've lived there since 2008) and that is where I have been practicing medicine since February 2015.
I also married my college sweetheart a few days before I graduated from medical school and we have a 2 1/2 year old daughter now. Being a doctor and a mother isn't easy but it is definitely worth it! I also continued to pursue music and dance on my own and took up figure skating after residency. So you might see me at the Ice Palace sometime!
I wish all of you the best of luck in your studies and beyond. Get out there, live life to the fullest and make it happen!