Two Sides of the Same Passion
They both received the same calling in life – convergent inclinations to save lives through medicine, but that’s also where their similarities end. Meet Drs. Kenny and Claudine Pang, siblings who grew up with the same ambition, but who chose divergent specialty vocations.
What inspires someone to be a healer, to want to save lives? One might say empathy, compassion and the pursuit of excellent care and knowledge through constant, conscientious research and study.
But these likely only scratch the surface of what motivates individuals to become doctors. Surely a myriad of reasons and the right personality facets need to come together to form this group of very special individuals.
Certainly multi-faceted, yet they have to be precisely the right qualities – innovation, absolute refinement, brilliance and the natural audacity to reinterpret knowledge, so as to re-define new standards, processes and the status quo – all of which are also apt reflections of Piaget’s exceptional horological benchmarks.
Spirit of Pioneers
He is the consummate specialist, a formidable combination of brilliance and doggedness. Little wonder that the youthful Dr. Kenny Pang has, at his age, already discovered and invented Pang’s Expansion Sphincter Pharyngoplasty, which has saved many lives and given many more a new lease of – even better quality – life. Dr. Kenny Pang’s surgical invention, perfected through long hours of dissecting countless cadavers, ensures that it successfully opens up the airways of patients suffering from snoring and sleep apnea.
His innovative surgeon’s mind and heart for the sick and needy were formed early on in life. He shares that “doing medicine has always been a calling and vocation for me, I have always wanted to help the unwell. In my late teenage life, as a youth group leader in church, we would organise trips to the aged homes to help feed and care for the old. As a young junior doctor, I volunteered (for 10 years) at the Kim Seng Community Centre’s free clinic for the poor.”
Dr. Pang’s fascination for the intricate and complex anatomy of the ear-nose-throat-head-neck area stems from his belief in something simple yet fundamental to functioning productively, and what some people may erroneously consider mundane – adequate good quality sleep.
“Sleep is something that we do every day and yet we take it for granted. We sleep 6 to 7 hours per day, hence we spend about one third of the day sleeping. If an average Singaporean lives to about 85 years old, he or she could spend 26 years of his or her life sleeping,” he says. To that which takes up so much time in our lives, Dr. Pang has dedicated the last 20 years.
Explains Dr. Pang on taking the medical road less travelled, “I enjoyed studying the anatomy and applying it through surgery in these complex areas that required great dexterity. At the same time, for the past 20 years, I have always been fascinated by the field of sleep medicine. The field of sleep physiology and sleep medicine may be daunting for some, but truly interesting and attractive to me. Merging the love of ENT and the fascination of sleep medicine, the upper airway for sleep surgery/snoring/sleep apnea is the perfect combination.”
Dr. Pang’s innate inventiveness means he has pioneered procedures through arduous research and study; but cultivating this pioneering spirit has been no mean feat. “I enjoy the pursuit for perfection and the relentless search for a cure for an illness and disease. I have always believed that as a surgeon, you have to ‘feel and believe that you are the best doctor to treat/cure the patient’. Mediocrity is not an option in my life; perfection and full commitment is the minimum I would give to my patients. To sleep well at night, I would need to know that I can and have given the best cure/treatment to my patients.”
The desire to push himself to achieving perfection is strong. “As a junior surgeon, I would deliberately stay on in the hospital (even after office hours/duty), to observe, practise and learn surgery from my seniors. For every given procedure, I would want to perfect every step of the surgery, in my hands and for the patient. I looked back to scientific journals that were published in the 1950s on the pharyngeal muscles that the old surgeons used to close off babies born with a congenital cleft palate; I thought to myself that if they could use those pharyngeal muscles to close off the palate, I could use the same muscles to open the pharyngeal airway and keep it open. It worked like a charm, and by suturing those pharyngeal muscles to the side walls of the mouth, my patients with snoring /sleep apnea had great results post-surgery. Moreover, over the years, as I had been invited around the world to teach my technique, other surgeons who used my technique on their patients, also had great results post-surgery.”
After the introduction of his 2 successful surgical inventions – the Anterior Palatoplasty and the Pang’s Expansion Sphincter Pharyngoplasty, the driven ENT surgeon has recently also completed a multi-centre research (involving six countries) on a new surgical outcome measure (SLEEP-GOAL) with sleep apnea in a more holistic and comprehensive way; and described the pathophysiology of how ear aches (from referred jaw joint pain) can be due to nose blockage. “Together with Dr David Tay (dentist), we have also discovered and described the association between bruxism (teeth grinding) and upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), a world first. We have found a strong correlation between patients (usually female, skinny, with long necks, as compared to patients with snoring and sleep apnea, who are usually male, obese, with short necks) with a tendency towards blocked noses, all leading to upper airway collapse and teeth grinding. This in turn leads to sleep disruption and tiredness,” he shares.
While sleep is the soothing balm of most hurt minds, Dr. Kenny Pang enjoys escaping into the sanctum of music. The one-time ‘spin doctor’, also a taekwondo black belt holder, golf, soccer, tennis and bowling fan says, “Music has always been my refuge. In my late teens, I had a mobile disco and was an avid DJ. I would save all my pocket money to buy LPs and spin them on the turn table with a mixer that could emerge the music together.”
Artwork by Curatedition, all rights reserved.