Early in his medical training, Michael Yong, a fourth-year otolaryngology-head and neck surgery resident at the University of British Columbia, met a patient with a malignant tumor in her throat. While the surgeons were able to place a tracheostomy tube to restore her breathing, she then sat on the hospital ward for an additional week waiting for the operation that would resect his cancer—a delay that nearly caused her cancer to progress from curable to incurable, says Yong.
Having also been involved in serving a severely marginalized population in Vancouver’s downtown specialist outreach clinic, Yong has further witnessed numerous examples of patients whose health problems stemmed from a lack of preventive resources, knowledge or access to care.
“In Canada, although we have a system that a lot of people think is ideal, we still have a lot of problems with timeliness of care and barriers to access,” he says. “These are problems at a policy level that, as surgeons, we are uniquely positioned to help address.”
To that end, Yong is taking two years away from his residency to pursue a dual MPH/MBA degree program at the Bloomberg School and the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School—knowledge he plans to use to spur innovations in health care policy.
“I hope to be one of the people,” he says, “who drives change and really makes a difference.”