A visit to a school in a small city on the Yangtze River during a recent trip to China compelled Dr. Orlando Hung to contemplate his success. Orlando is an anesthesiologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, Medical Director of Research in the Anesthesia Department, a Dalhousie University professor and an inventor of drug delivery systems and medical devices. “I became emotional as I was one of those kids many years ago,” he recalls. “I said to myself, I never expected to have the life I have today. What was the turning point? It was education.”
Orlando, who was born in Macau, a former Portuguese colony in China, says a Jesuit priest urged his father to send the children to high school in Hong Kong for a better education. “I wasn’t the best student,” Orlando confesses. “I was playing soccer, playing in a rock band, riding motorcycles and not doing much studying!” But after graduating in 1975 he was sent to Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, a former Jesuit university.
Orlando encountered culture shock and language challenges, but was determined to take advantage of the opportunity. He studied pharmacy, partly on scholarship, and then medicine. Most of his 11 siblings also came to Canada, settling in Toronto and Edmonton. Almost all have post-graduate degrees.
Education is a continuum. I am learning every day.
As a student, Orlando worked shelving books at the medical library. Although he was offered an internship in the U.S. he accepted one here instead. After his marriage and completion of his anesthesia training at Dalhousie, he accepted a research fellowship in pharmacology at Stanford University. “They had a huge lab and offered me a job.” But a California earthquake was not part of the plan, so he and Jeanette packed up with their two boys and returned to Halifax. “I had moved so often, it didn’t bother me to move again.”
Orlando works three days a week in the operating room and two days on research. He and a colleague invented a way to deliver pain medication through the lungs in 1995, and in 2008 Orlando and his colleagues patented a monitor that sounds an alarm when the Intravenous (IV) bag is empty during surgery. “In the last 10 years I’ve spent more and more energy inventing medical devices. I have many ideas.” Although he would likely have more success, more quickly, had he stayed at Stanford, he is content. “I think Canada is actually wonderful, because you’re judged on your own merits; I am a living example of that.”
Orlando loves the Nova Scotia environment. He and Jeanette, coordinator of Dalhousie’s career counselling service, live in a condo on the Northwest Arm so she can kayak and he can play tennis. Their children, a nurse and two paramedics, live in Nova Scotia and hope to stay. Orlando was active in the Chinese Association and now volunteers with the Global Outreach Program. He and two of his children spent a month in Rwanda teaching anesthesia and pre-hospital care medicine in 2013, and again in July 2015, something he hopes to repeat.
Orlando has greatly contributed to his adopted home with his work, research and inventions. And he’s not finished yet. “Education is a continuum. I am learning every day.”