ASSOCIATE Professor Kelvin Kong will officially be presented with the prestigious Australian Society of Medical Research medal when he addresses the National Press Club on Tuesday.
It is the latest accolade for Australia's first Aboriginal surgeon, and the Hunter's highly acclaimed ear, nose and throat specialist.
The Worimi man from Port Stephens said he was deeply honoured to be recognised by the Australian Society of Medical Research (ASMR) with the 2021 medal during medical research week. He hoped the opportunity to share what motivated his research with the nation would highlight the importance of addressing ear disease and hearing loss early for every child, and help break the cycle of disadvantage for Indigenous Australians.
"In Australia we live in this dichotomy where the privileged do very well and the people who are not so lucky do terribly," Associate Professor Kong said. "The more remote you go, the more ear disease there is, but in our own backyard - in Awabakal country - ear disease rates are four-to-five of that of our non-Indigenous population.
"When you go to the remote areas, it's probably 10 times that. If it's your child and my child in the same backyard, why should my children have five times the risk of ear infections, and not have the same access to appropriate care? It doesn't matter where or who, it should be that everyone should have equal access."
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While the ASMR medallist had been recognised for his research collaborations across Australia, locally he was looking into the growing role of telehealth via the Hunter Medical Research Institute.
"People think telemedicine is just setting up a computer and doing a Facetime meeting, but it's so much more," he said. "We're looking at ways to use it to train community health workers to take photos of ear drums, do some simple audiology tests, and do some questionnaires to test speech and hearing to expedite these kids into treatment and care."
Associate Professor Kong was also named the 2021 Newcastle Citizen of the Year and was awarded the 2020 Menzies School of Health Research Menzies Medallion for his leadership in Aboriginal health service delivery, advocacy and research.
But the title he loves most is "dad". The father-of-three said without the love and support of his family, and the sacrifices they had made, he could not have achieved these accolades.
"Seeing children try to learn with ear disease, or to see them struggling with things, when I have all this help at my fingertips - it just breaks my heart that we don't get the access to everyone to make sure all children have the opportunity to do well."
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