​​​​Image of Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong
Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong believes listening to patients tell their story is key to providing better medical care. He shares this and more insights in his book The Art of Medicine – Healing and the Limits of Technology (Photo​: UHN)​

For years Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong's patients and colleagues had been bringing him medical books written by other doctors. They insisted that the internal medicine specialist's unique brand of care and experience diagnosing some of the most complex and rare illnesses could help make health care better – for everyone. 

Now, after 50 years of practicing medicine, Ho Ping Kong felt the time was right to share his insight on, The Art of Medicine – Healing and the Limits of Technology, written in collaboration with Michael Poser, a long-time writer for The Globe and Mail.

"The idea that medicine blends scientific knowledge, human creativity, communication and social interaction is not new," said Ho Ping Kong. "But when we talk about the 'art of medicine' today, it means that we should augment our skills as physicians with modern technological capabilities and not the other way around."

"Where are you from?" and "How are you feeling?" are two of Ho Ping Kong's most frequently asked questions. They stem from both genuine interest and concern.

Asking questions is Ho Ping Kong's first tool he pulls from his metaphorical medical bag. Central to his ability to diagnose patients is his mastery of the physical examination and the time he spends talking to his patients to find out their medical history and personal story.

​"Hearing is often passive and automatic. Listening implies a higher level of active engagement." –The Art of Medicine - Healing and the Limits of Technology

Until the 17th century, art referred to any skill or mastery and did not distinguish between crafts and sciences. According to Ho Ping Kong's book, the word "medicine" derives from the Latin medicina, meaning the healing art.

Teaching medical trainees is one of Ho Ping Kong's great passions. He believes they are the key to reviving the art of medicine so that compassion, empathy, judgement and advocacy are at the core of our health-care system. Much of Ho Ping Kong's time has been devoted to helping medical students and residents appreciate and hone their examination and bedside skills.

"My hope is that this book provides to others what I have been so lucky to receive, experience and mentorship," said Ho Ping Kong. "It is for doctors who want to add more humanity to their practice, medical trainees - who will discover the art of medicine and for patients – who guide us in this discovery."

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The Art of Medicine – Healing and the Limits of Technology can be purchased at amazon.ca, Indigo.ca, Indigo Bookstores and UHN Pharmacies.

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