By Lois Thomson
“Doing nothing is not an option.” That has been Dr. Antonio Wong’s way of thinking throughout his decades of practice, and that is the thought process he is bringing to the Broward County Medical Association as its new president.
Dr. Vania Fernandez was the previous president, and Dr. Wong said as president-elect, he worked in a coordinated effort with her and the other members of the board of directors. Since stepping into his new position on Jan. 1, Dr. Wong has reflected on what happened in the recent past and what’s important for moving into the future.
“My predecessor dealt with COVID,” he said, “and we got exposed to the fragility of our healthcare delivery system – it gave us a vision of what we need to do in our society.” He said COVID affected everyone, but the ones with the worst outcomes were those who did not have access to good healthcare. “They were more vulnerable to the chronic diseases from COVID.”
Dr. Wong has a genuine passion that everyone should have access to healthcare. He commented, “In Broward County, we are lucky to have such great healthcare systems: Memorial Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, Miami Health System, Baptist Hospital, Broward Health and HCA. We have a tremendous amount of talent and research going on; all of these are great institutes for chronic diseases.” However, he went on to say, “I think we’ve dropped the ball for preventive diseases; how do we have access to affordable and accessible preventive care for the community. It’s an insane system that favors the chronic diseases that cost trillions of dollars.”
We have a tremendous amount of talent and research going on; all of these are great institutes for chronic diseases.” However, he went on to say, “I think we’ve dropped the ball for preventive diseases; how do we have access to affordable and accessible preventive care for the community. It’s an insane system that favors the chronic diseases that cost trillions of dollars.”
Because of his passion, he said he has been involved with the BCMA for many years. “I got enamored with the philosophy of protecting the health of the people of Broward; we have limited resources, but we are able to work collectively for the agenda of healthcare.”
Dr. Wong has spent 30 years at Pembroke Pines My Care, where he is medical director and practices in primary care and family medicine. He gave an example of a patient who walked into his office, and when he checked his sugar he discovered it was 400. “I see this and I think, ‘Where were you 10 years ago?’ So that’s a problem.”
He believes one answer is to help get patients engaged and get them more educated about their illnesses. “When you have those components, you have power. Things like telehealth and intelligence platforms help us educate and empower our patients and that maximizes compliance and minimizes cost. That’s my goal. It’s value-based care, and I’m very interested in that.”
Dr. Wong also expressed his concern for young doctors who are entering the system, saying the journey of becoming a doctor is so incredibly hard – not only do they make life and death decisions, but they also face the challenges of insurance and malpractice. However, he said, “When you help a patient in that most necessary moment and they give you a hug, that is priceless. That keeps your passion going, but it gets harder every year to continue that passion. Medicine is a vocation, it’s a calling that touches your heart.”
With all of this in mind, Dr. Wong has a mission for the BCMA during his year as president, and he refers to it as “CPT.” He explained: “C – I want them to connect, to connect with themselves, to connect with the community, to connect with patients, to be better physicians. I think a better doctor is a better person, and I want them to collaborate and communicate their ideas with compassion.” The P is for protection. Dr. Wong wants them to protect their health, protect their profession, and protect the patients’ rights, to be advocates.
“And T is for transformation of the mindset – go from why to why not, from good to better to best. To embrace new ideas, because in medicine now the only thing constant is change, so embrace it. Use technology to engage patients, because an engaged patient is a better person, a better patient. Those are the values I’m trying to move forward.”
He mentioned again why his involvement in the BCMA is so important: “I’m 60 now and I have to give something back. I’ve been in this community for almost 50 years, 30 years practicing down here, and it’s the right thing to do because we’ve got to move forward.” He added, “I might need those services someday! And doing nothing is not an option.”
For more information, visit www.bcma.com or call (954) 714-9477.