Faculty Spotlight – Fay Leung

FAY LEUNG
CLINICAL ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR

Division:
Arthroscopy

Site:
Richmond Hospital

Dr. Fay Leung is a Clinical Associate Professor with the UBC Department of Orthopaedics. She specializes in knee, shoulder, elbow, and hip arthroscopy. As an educator, Dr. Leung is passionate about continuing medical education, research, and teaching at UBC.

Can you tell us about your educational background and journey? How did you get to where you are today?

My father is a physician, and growing up I always thought that I would also end up in medicine. My undergraduate diploma says “Bachelors of Science, Hons., Cell Biology”, but mostly it was a degree in playing sports and getting injured. During those years, I was so appreciative of the physiotherapists who treated my many sore body parts. This experience really inspired me to consider physiotherapy as a career. I fought with my parents quite a bit about this, because they were really convinced that I should go into medicine. Despite their counsel, I enrolled as a physiotherapy student, but by the time I was finished my physiotherapy degree, I knew that my parents had been right all along. I surreptitiously applied to the UBC Medical program and was thankfully accepted. On my graduation day from the Physiotherapy program, I broke the news to my parents that I had gotten in to medical school.

Because of my previous experience with sports teams as a physiotherapy student, I had become acquainted with the Sports Medicine doctors at UBC. Once I had been admitted into medical school, Dr. Lloyd-Smith pointed his finger at me and announced, “you want to be an Orthopaedic Surgeon” and promptly walked me down the corridor to introduce me to Dr. Bob Hawkins. My career planning had begun. 

Dr. Hawkins, he was the quintessential scholar, clinician, and thoughtful mentor. Starting as a green first-year medical student, I flew under “the Hawk’s wing.” I followed him around to clinics and into the OR, reviewed charts, and listened in on case discussions in rounds. The first case he took me to was an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, with sutures flying everywhere. I tried to keep an open mind about other specialties, but with a background in musculoskeletal care and Dr. Hawkins’s tutelage, I must admit that the path to orthopaedics was a foregone conclusion. 

As an orthopaedic resident, I enjoyed every rotation in that “hard is fun” kind of way. As a mid-year resident, I was originally interested in pursuing a trauma fellowship, but through a series of personal events that led to a pregnancy, I elected to stay at UBC to complete a fellowship in Arthroscopy. Arthroscopy requires a different set of psycho-motor skills than open surgery, and the trainees sometimes find it frustrating because the learning curve is steep, but I love it because it’s a demanding field that is constantly growing. We are now able to do more and more cases in a minimally invasive way, and I embrace the challenge of constantly learning and trying new techniques.

What impact would you like to see your work have on patients, communities, and society at large?

Like most orthopaedic surgeons, I chose this line of work because I value function and movement, and find it rewarding to improve someone’s quality of life by restoring the ability to walk, return to sports, and return to their job. My mentor, Dr. Hawkins, said that while he enjoyed looking after patients, the most meaningful part of his career was teaching residents and fellows. I wholly identify with his outlook. The most gratifying aspect of my career thus far has been my involvement with education. I love the process of learning, applying, and teaching new skills and concepts. It’s the culture and community of orthopaedic education that keeps me excited about my job. It’s incredibly satisfying to train residents, and later work with them as colleagues – it’s the experience of building these relationships that unifies us as an orthopaedic community. 

What is one piece of advice that you would give to current trainees?

I would say to be open and curious about new and unexpected experiences. Despite well-laid plans, sometimes little snags happen that at first appear to be derailments, but end up being great opportunities that take you to amazing places. 

When youre not working, where can we find you?

I’ve always been an active person. I love to put myself through the pain of learning new skills, and what I lack in athleticism I make up for in enthusiasm. In the last few years, I’ve spent time dabbling in many sports including Crossfit (because who doesn’t?), Brazilian Jujitsu (because my kids made me), and transitioning from snowboarding to skiing (badly).  I took up weightlifting and have competed at the World Masters Weight Lifting Championship in 2019. I also won silver at the PanAm Masters Weight Lifting Competition in 2020.


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