Dr. Wai Bong Lok

Dr. Wai Bong Lok devoted his life to helping others. He ran a private cardiology practice for more than 30 years in Pill Hill, Oakland, and served on the medical staff of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.  He embodied our mission as a cardiologist who partnered with Asian Health Services to ensure our patients received quality care regardless of income or insurance status.  

Dr. Wai Bong Lok was a medical student when I first met him in the mid 1970’s.  He was a fresh-faced, idealistic med student spending his clinical elective at our very small, very part-time store-front clinic in Oakland Chinatown.  I was impressed that he had chosen to come to Oakland Chinatown to spend a precious clinical elective, instead of spending that time rotating through a prestigious service with a nationally or internationally renowned specialist.

Fast forward to the completion of his residency and cardiology training, I was so gratified to learn of his establishing a cardiology practice on “Pill Hill” in Oakland.  In the community health world where we had been fighting to ensure health care access for our low income, uninsured community, the ability to refer patients to an expert cardiologist was unheard of.  Dr. Wai Bong Lok was our “go to” cardiologist, who was always so willing to consult with us doctors not only at Asian Health Services but with other community clinic doctors as well.  What a delight and privilege it was to get him on the phone to see what he could teach us about the cardiac condition our patient had.  Not only was he generous with his expertise, he would often offer healthy life-style tips in addition to food and recipe advice.  He was always so patient with my confusion about a patient’s condition, skillfully guiding me through his recommendations.

Over the years, so many of our mutual patients would remark to me about his care, empathy, and willingness to explain complex concepts to them.  The other recurrent feedback from patients was his genuine down to earth manner, his humanity and his real understanding about their circumstances.  He did not hold himself apart, he was one of them.

In addition, Dr. Lok was the caring cardiologist for my mother who had a very complicated cardiac condition.  He prolonged her life until she was 92 years of age.  Many a time, when we’d be at the hospital for urgent care, blood work or procedure, Dr. Lok would walk past at all hours of the day or night, stop to ask how we were doing and give advice and encouragement.

I too, along with so many in this community, want to pay tribute to this outstanding individual and dedicated cardiologist, who worked tirelessly for the welfare of his patients and the community.  He was a champion for quality health care for all.  That was why he labored for so many decades at some real personal sacrifice to provide health care to this community.  He is my hero.  He is the example of a tireless, compassionate, expert provider of quality health care I strive to emulate.  Dr. Wai Bong Lok, your memory and all the work you’ve done for this community is such a blessing.

-Dr. Sue Chan

I am very blessed to have first met Wai Bong at Summit Hospital, when I was fresh out of residency and doing inpatient call for AHS in 1998. He helped consult on all of our patients getting admitted for heart failure and rapid atrial fibrillation, and gave me advice not only on medicine but also how to survive and thrive as a new physician! Wai Bong helped us take great care of our patients and was a great role model for all! He will be dearly missed!

 -Dr. Christina Ng

So many memories so will offer one general stream of thought and get to specifics later.

I remember hearing about Wai Bong when I first arrived at AHS in the early 80’s.  Sue Chan and Wally Lim recommended him as the best cardiologist for our patients. Like many specialists, we would know them by name and occasionally by voice, but rarely meet them.  Wai Bong stood out. He would frequently call soon after seeing our patients and share his assessment and recommendations.  This would be followed by a legible written note —- totally appreciated by us PCP’s, when timely feedback from specialists was hard to come by in those days. We were lucky to get any communication at all and frequently had to call their offices to track down consults. Not so with Wai Bong.

When we started our inpatient service in the mid-80’s, I remember meeting Wai Bong at Providence Hospital (now Summit South Pavillion).  While buried in manual charting of an admission H&P I overheard him speaking with nursing staff and recognized his voice. The first thing I noticed was how informative and respectful he was with nurses. They really appreciated the effort he made to explain what was going on with his patient and fully engaging them as team members.  I introduced myself and he was equally kind and gracious. Mentioning I was from Asian Health Services seemed to raise his eyebrows as he was very familiar with us and revered Dr. Sue Chan and acknowledged our good work in the community. This was a uniquely positive reference at a time when we were small and viewed as a “9 to 5 only” public clinic that didn’t provide afterhours care and therefore was perceived as “dumping” our patients on the emergency room and on-call doctors in the evenings and on weekends — there were no formal hospitalist arrangements in those days. Furthermore, our patients were always either Medi-Cal or uninsured and didn’t speak English.  In short, receptivity to our patients in those days was not great and capped by considerable resentment my many—- not so with Wai Bong.

-Dr. Art Chen
 As a fresh grad from residency, I was always anxious when making my rounds at the hospital.  I was taking care of critically ill patients without a safety net for the first time.  But, whenever I had someone admitted with a cardiac issue, I had no fear.  I knew that Wai Bong would be responsive – answering his calls immediately and actually sounding glad for the consult.  I also knew that I would be in for a lesson in cardiology – he explained what he would do and why.  He would even quote me some studies along the way!
Taking call in the hospital means a lot of early morning and late-night hours in the hospital.  I would often run into Wai Bong late at night and it was at those times that we talked about the things that were of value to him personally.  He spoke about his love for his family, his desire to spend more time with them and his passion for serving the community.  He taught me much, not just about cardiology, but also how to grow up as a young physician.
Wai Bong and Bessie were ardent supporters of AHS.  They were regular fixtures at the AHS fundraiser.  And, when Wai Bong gave up his cardiology practice, he made certain that his successor would continue to take care of our patients.  His legacy really does live on in the lives of the patients he cared for and the people he has affected over the years.  I am so thankful to have been touched by him. 

-Dr.  George Lee

If you’d like to give in his honor and memory, please click below.

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