David Ng, MD, spent 33 years working in the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center. In August 2018, his son, Timothy Ng, MD, started work at the same medical center … in the same emergency department.
“After his residency, I encouraged him to go out and interview everywhere, but he came back to Kaiser Permanente,” said Dr. Ng, who retired in March 2019.
“It’s true,” laughed his son. “I came here because the environment and the team felt like a family.”
We sat down with the father and son just before David’s retirement to learn more about their shared profession and dedication to Kaiser Permanente’s mission.
When did you each first know that you wanted to become a doctor? And then specialize in emergency medicine?
David: I first trained as a dentist. And then in my last year of an internship at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, a senior leader suggested that I consider going to medical school to widen my scope — so I did! During a rotation, I fell in love with emergency medicine. I loved the variety of work and that I could use my dental background to help patients, too.
Tim: In high school, I had a senior-year independent project. I didn’t know what to do, so my dad suggested I check out the hospital. I shadowed an orthopedic surgeon, and I really liked it, so I thought I would go into that field. But that changed in medical school when, like my dad, I did a rotation in emergency medicine. I realized it’s more my style: It’s fast-paced and you typically can see immediate results.
What have you shared with one another about working in such a high-pressure, high-intensity place?
Tim: Dad taught me about scheduling and how to do everything correctly with coding. But most importantly, from day one, he’s been clear about how essential it is to have a team-based approach to your work.
David: We talk about treating patients individually and developing a rapport. And how important it is to work as a team, especially in a stressful situation like the emergency department. If you do this, your work will go smoothly, and patients will have the best experience and outcome.
Why did you choose Kaiser Permanente as the place where you wanted to practice medicine?
David: I was one of the first emergency medicine-trained physicians at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California because it was a new specialty. Kaiser Permanente now has the reputation of being one of the best hospital systems in the country.
Tim: It was the reputation and the integrated system that attracted me. You’re so tied into everything — you can send out a referral from the emergency department, let’s say to the eye clinic, and that patient can be seen the same or next day.
What was it like to practice medicine in the same hospital?
Tim: He’s always been Dad to me, but now that I’m here, I’m starting to hear all these stories that he’s never shared. One of our registration assistants told me that no matter how busy the emergency department was, my dad would always go up to her and say hi — without fail. That stuck with her the whole time she’s been here. There are multiple stories like that — about how personable he is, how he makes everyone feel welcome and part of the group. He’s made such a positive impact on people, and they pass these stories on to me.
David: I tried not to influence Tim too much to come here. I really wanted him to be happy first and foremost. In the end, I think he made the right decision, and I’m so happy he’s part of the next generation of emergency department physicians who will continue to strengthen Kaiser Permanente.