Sandy Hong, MS, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
What is your hometown?
Los Angeles is my hometown.
When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?
I joined the University of Iowa in 2007.
How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?
I was always interested in nature and biology. I loved watching animals and insects and wanted to know why they did what they did.
My mother was a nurse and it was so fun for me to hear her stories about patients. By the time I was five years old, I wanted to be a scientist or a doctor.
What interested you to pursue a career in medicine?
I think that health is the foundation of a good life. I like that what I do improves my patients’ ability to live better lives, and in turn, I help others do so in their own ways.
Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?
My mother was a nurse. Her stories about patients and how much medicine changed their lives inspired me.
How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?
I chose to come to the University of Iowa because it is located in family-friendly Iowa City. I also got the feeling when I came to interview, that people here work together as professionals to get the job done and get it done right.
As a health care provider, it is important to me to be in a strong community with other physicians who I feel are ethical and work well together.
The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How does your work help translate new discoveries into patient-centered care and education?
Every patient is different. Being in an academic environment ensures that I know what new therapies or discoveries are being made. This automatically affects how I treat each patient, as we constantly evaluate whether new findings apply to their cases.
What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?
It has helped me to participate in multi-institutional research that will help to advance the knowledge of pediatric rheumatology.
I have also had the opportunity to network with other pediatric rheumatologists across the country to improve my own knowledge and skills.
It has given me the opportunity to participate as an AAP section member. I have had the opportunity to help fellows with career development.
Please describe your professional interests.
I am interested in assisting in the career development of medical students, residents, and fellows. And, professionally, I am interested in linear scleroderma.
What led to your interest in Pediatrics?
In my specialty, I help people whose immune systems are “dysfunctional” or “misbehaving.” The symptoms of these conditions are varied and include rashes, internal organ disease, and joint swelling.
When treated, patients can live normal lives, free of pain. I like that I am able to see how my treatments can improve my patients’ wellbeing and lives.
How does working in a collaborative and comprehensive academic medical center benefit your work?
Because my patients often have multiple organ involvement, it is very important for me to be in an academic center with a strong imaging department and a full host of other specialists that I can consult with, including, but not limited to: physical therapy, ophthalmology, cardiology, heme-oncology, pulmonology, neurology, gastroenterology, and nephrology.
What are some of your outside interests?
I like to eat, read, and garden. My favorite flowers right now are peonies. They don’t really have these in California, which is my home.
Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?
Yes. Treat others the way that you would want to be treated.
When I interact with my patients and their families I try to imagine myself in their place and always ask myself what I would need at that time and try to give it to them: reassurance, education, a hug, or directions.
Beyond everything else though, what I would want is a doctor that is good at what they do and that cares about me as a person. That’s who I try to be.
If you could change one thing about the world or the world of medicine, what would it be?
I wish we would figure out how to control people’s pain better. Seeing a physician should not be associated with pain. But for many people it is. I wish that we could do blood studies without having them hurt.
Also, basic medical care should be free, paid for by everyone.
What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?
I am very happy about the availability of new biologic drugs that have come out in the last 10 years. This has really impacted patients with juvenile arthritis. It has meant less joint destruction, less need for joint replacement, and has allowed us to obtain disease remission in patients who might not have had their arthritis controlled otherwise. I have seen the need for rehabilitation and pain medications decrease dramatically.
What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?
Only become a physician if you love medicine.
What do you see as "the future" of medicine?
The future of medicine will involve more technology. I think that patients will become more and more engaged in their care plans as we leverage technology to communicate with them and to coordinate their care with other physicians.
In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e., population-based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?
I have been asked to give lectures to parents at the national Juvenile Arthritis Conference about juvenile arthritis and medication therapy. This is a yearly conference for patients and families sponsored by the national Arthritis Foundation. I am an active member of CARRA (Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance). CARRA is composed of pediatric rheumatologist across North America who participate in research. At Iowa we are a part of CARRAnet, which is a registry for pediatric patients with rheumatologic diseases. I am also a member of the AAP Section of Rheumatology. We work to ensure that education in medical schools and residencies includes pediatric rheumatology. We have also as a group addressed the drug shortages seen in Pediatric Rheumatology.