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Chinese doctor broke gender barriers

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Lucy Ma Fong was determined at an early age to excel beyond her small-town roots and persevered to become a caring and dedicated doctor in obstetrics and gynecology in China and the United States, said daughter Frances Wong.

Lucy Fong, the first Chinese female physician to be licensed in the state, died Sept. 10, said son Dr. Frederick Fong. She was 98.

Born in a small, rural Chinese farming village outside Beijing, Lucy Fong was one of the rare girls who attended school, a privilege she did not take for granted, her daughter said.

She consistently pushed herself in academics with great discipline and ambition, which led to scholarships and awards that carried her through her academic career during a period of civil unrest and the Japanese invasion of China, Wong said.

Undeterred by outside obstacles, she graduated the top scholar of her class at a foremost Beijing missionary high school, where she also was captain of the basketball team, Wong said.

Fong continued to focus on medical studies and graduated from Cheeloo University Medical School in 1934. By that time she had taken care of dozens of patients who praised her for her excellent service, compassion and caring spirit, said her son.

Fong arrived in Seattle on Christmas Eve in 1940 before heading to New York — a momentous occasion and dream come true for the ambitious girl, Frederick Fong said.

"Not one day did I ever regret it," she once said of her move to the United States, according to Wong.

It was no easy feat breaking through barriers for a woman of Chinese ancestry who barely spoke English, but Fong completed her specialty training in 1943 at the famed Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital, Jersey City Medical Center — the busiest maternity hospital in the U.S. at the time, with more than 5,000 deliveries per year, Frederick Fong said.

She attracted the attention of Dr. K.S. Fong, whom she married in 1944. They had a daughter and son shortly thereafter, all while she juggled a fledgling medical career, Wong said.

In 1946 the family moved to Hawaii. She later built a large successful medical practice and was recognized by colleagues and patients as one of the top gynecologists, delivering more babies alone than some of the major hospitals in town, Frederick Fong said.

Lucy Fong would not let anything get in her way when she was called to duty, building a reputation as one of the most dedicated and passionate doctors of her time, Wong said.

Neither policemen, red lights nor speed limits would stop her in the middle of the night as she raced to make it to a delivery, Wong said. She viewed it as a privilege and gift to be doctor, working seven days a week.

She retired from her successful medical practice in 1980.

"I loved my patients," she once said. "Being a doctor is the best job in the world."

She is also survived by four grandchildren, Tracy, Michael, Christopher and Nicole.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. next Saturday at Diamond Head Memorial Park. Visitation begins at 10 a.m.

 

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