Life saver

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 October, 2010, 12:00am

As a doctor, time takes on an extra depth: every hour spent working benefits someone else. For Tony Mok, a professor in the department of oncology at Chinese University and a well-known former television show host, time is the basic element he uses to put as much goodness into the world as he can.

'What I have is counted in terms of time. I use my time to make someone else's life better,' Mok says. 'It's a positive cycle and, if everyone did that, it might help to make the whole world better. But, put another way, losing time is losing life.'

For a person so aware of the value of time, it comes as no surprise that he's a busy man. In addition to seeing patients, he also dedicates his time to research, teaching and administration at the university. For the past five years, he has also written a weekly column for Ming Pao's Sunday magazine on anything ranging from medicine to love, food to sex.

He says there is no such thing as spare time. 'When I'm not at work it doesn't equal spare time,' he says. 'I make time for my daughter. I also make time for activities I enjoy, such as diving and golf. It's about optimising my life. A happy life is a life packed with happy moments.'

While his positive impact on people's lives can't be doubted, he also admits he might, at times, be a source of frustration.

'Sometimes patients do have to spend time waiting in doctors' reception rooms, but they see it as the sign of a good doctor,' he says with a chuckle. 'A doctor can offer three things - knowledge, skill and time - and there is only so much of each. We can't predict how much time each person needs, and patients with serious problems may take longer. A good doctor is one who is willing to spend the time.'

Although being an oncologist means sometimes Mok must spend his time dealing with loss, his work has also been a great source of inspiration for him.

'A patient of mine had bowel cancer. Even though she knew she wasn't curable, she was so determined to keep fighting. She did it for her husband. No matter how old you are, 28 or 82, it's no different. If you love someone, you try your best for them,' he says.