Stephen Kung (4th Quarter, 2006)

4th Quarter, 2006
Mesothelioma Memorial Scholarship
Stephen Kung

“I am currently working as a full-time employee for Varian Medical Systems as a product training specialist. My work entails developing as well as training health care professionals to properly use our software and radiation equipment to treat cancer. I am involved heavily with my work and at the same time maintaining an honors standing in my studies.

I moved here to Las Vegas, Nevada in the summer of 2006 and have been very active in the community in both areas of my life. I am part of a safety and evacuation committee at work and involved in a mentoring program at UNLV.”

A Portion of Stephen’s Winning Essay:

With my background in medical radiation sciences and experience in the field of radiation therapy, I am well aware of the cancerous nature of this disease. I have learned about mesothelioma from when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying radiation therapy. Having studied different cancers and their associated pathology, I know well enough that mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is often fatal when diagnosed. Physicians in the United States diagnose two to three thousand cases a year, and the disease occurs three to five times more often in men than in women. Malignant mesothelioma is a serious health threat to those diagnosed because it usually presents in an advanced form before the symptoms appear. Although rare, statistics have shown that the incidents of this horrendous malignancy appear to be on the rise. I know from my experience as a radiation therapist that the patients who are treated with radiotherapy are often in poor shape. More than half of the patients whose mesothelioma are diagnosed and treated will survive two years or more. But the outlook, however, for all stages of mesothelioma patients has an average survival of one year.

Stephen Kung

Like all cancers, the impact of mesothelioma goes beyond the patient’s suffering. It often impacts the lives of their family and friends. This disease is common in people who have previous exposure to asbestos. Family members who live with these workers often have an increased risk, too. Living in Toronto for a few years, I learned that some of the older school buildings still have asbestos as insulation. There is a need for greater awareness of these kind of dangers that our children are exposed to. The emotional pain and turmoil of watching someone you love go through the stages of treatment and dying is often a difficult experience to endure.

Personally, I have treated and gotten to know a few patients who suffer from this cancer. I have treated several palliative lung patients while I was a therapist at Peel Regional Cancer Centre in Canada. As a therapist, you have the opportunity to spend a few weeks with them as they come daily for their dose of radiation. You have the opportunity and the time to be with them throughout all stages of their treatment from the time they arrive to see the physician, the simulation, the planning, and of course, the treatment. During that time, you are given the opportunity to make an impact on their lives despite their condition. You learn to understand them on a personal level rather than just a patient you treat. I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I can lend my expertise and skills in radiation treatment as well as my personal skills in support and care. Sometimes a cure may seem highly unlikely, but what these patient seek isn’t so much the cure, but the recognition that although they are dying, they still need that human touch. Most of these patients are palliative, mesothelioma patients often receive radiation to the lungs to relieve symptoms arising from tumor growth, such as obstruction of a major blood vessel. Most of these patients have accepted their conditions and what they seek is companionship. Human kindness is a hundred-fold more potent than any medical treatment that you can give a patient.

Sadly, most of them are physically weak from having endured a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs and a combination of different treatment strategies. Many of these mesothelioma patients receive treatments to the lung area. From a radiation therapy standpoint, these patients often have to raise their arm in an awkward and difficult position to receive the dose of radiation. Having to hold an uncomfortable position each day can be extremely painful and difficult. Over the past years, I have learned to empathize with them with what they have to go through. I’ll never be able understand the pain that they go through, but I have an understanding and appreciation of the kind of impact that I can have on these patients just by showing my human side–to touch, to reach out, to care and more importantly, to instill hope. Having to deal with patients like these and many others who are courageously fighting cancer have shown me a new side of the human spirit and what I can do to make an impact.

The 19th century Scottish writer Samuel Smiles, best known today as a writer of extolling virtues of self-help, once said, “Hope is the companion of power, and the mother of success; for who so hopes strongly, has within him the gift of miracles.” We can never give up hope in the fight against cancer. As a radiation therapist, my experience has taught me that human touch can have a profound impact on hope for those who are suffering.

Come closer, get comfortable. I want to tell you a story.

In 1997, an Asian couple was faced with a dilemma. With the imminent handover of Hong Kong back to the motherland of China, a decision had to be made over whether or not they wanted to stay or leave the one place they had ever known–the only place they had ever included in their future and family plans. To leave would mean to give up everything including their careers, friends and family; in essence, to start all over. But to stay, meant uncertainty. What was to happen with communist China in the fold?

Since arriving in North America, my parents knew they were presenting to me an opportunity for the kind of life they never had in Asia. Both of my parents never had education beyond a high school diploma, and they saw this opportunity to immigrate as a chance for me to have a better life. My family immigrated to Canada when I was 8 years old for fear of instability during the 1997 hand over of Hong Kong back to China. I have been living in Canada for 18 years.

My name is Stephen Kung from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Growing up I’ve seen the hardship that my parents had to go through to provide me and my brother the things we need. I remember the time when both my parents had to take on two jobs just so they could save enough for us to have a comfortable lifestyle. Having witnessed how dedicated my parents were, I knew it was up to me to return this favor. I knew I had to make them proud and honor all that they have sacrificed to get me where I am today. I graduated 2 years ago from the University of Toronto, and I am actively pursuing an MBA at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. My current employment is with Varian Medical Systems Inc., a world leader in the manufacturing of radiation oncology equipment and systems.

We are the world’s leading manufacturer of medical technology for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiotherapy, brachytherapy and radiosurgery. The company is also a premier supplier of X-ray tubes and digital image detectors for imaging in medical, scientific and industrial applications. I currently work on the side of radiation oncology to teach other radiation therapists how to effectively use our equipments. Because of my background in radiation therapy, I am very delighted and proud to be able to lend my expertise to ensure the safe and optimal uses of our technology to save lives.

Since childhood, I have always been faced with multiple challenges. One of the greatest challenges for me had to be adapting to a whole new lifestyle in North America. It was never easy to start a new life over again and to learn a new culture and a new language. I was fortunate, however, to have parents who were always supportive. Although they lack the financial wealth to put me through university, I had to take on part-time jobs at a young age to save for college. I knew moving away for school to Toronto was a financial burden for my family, but they knew it was something that I wanted and needed to pursue.

Six years ago, I had a difficult decision to make. What should I major in for my undergraduate degree? Throughout high school, I had always known that I wanted to work within the health care sector. However, I was also conscious that there was a passion for business deep within my heart as well. The concept of combining a science background with the seemingly different field of business into an effective career didn’t seem to be possible. I felt as if I had to make a choice and as a result, I graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Medical Radiation Sciences in 2005. It wasn’t until I started working as a health care professional for two years at a regional cancer center that I began to realize that business opportunities within the realm of sciences were possible. As a result, the slow transition from a strictly science career to one that infused elements of both business and science together began; leading to the successful application into Varian Medical Systems Inc. as a defined clinical consultant. Throughout the whole process, I have learned that I can still pursue my interests in business without having to compromise all that I have achieved in sciences. I felt confident that what I wanted was a career in business, but I still wanted to be involved in the field of radiation oncology. After moving Las Vegas, I’ve learned that I can still pursue an MBA on a part-time basis which would allow me to keep my job and go to school at the same time.

The most important reason for pursuing a graduate degree is the realization of achieving a dream. I believe that attaining a master’s degree would fulfill one of my life’s dreams. I know I would make myself and my parents very proud. I know this degree will also bring my parents an overwhelming sense of peace and satisfaction. For them, to see their son graduate with a masters degree is a realization of their dreams. My parents are traditional, and they may not express their happiness through a hug or a kiss, but I know deep inside that it would make them very proud. It also brings a sense of accomplishment for me and a chance to advance in my career. I am passionate about attending UNLV College of business to challenge myself with powerful business lessons that will help me grow as a leader. I believe that a transition from science to business is necessary to help me satisfy my passion and to diversify as a professional.

After graduation, I would like to continue my career at Varian Medical Systems in a managerial position and be able to rotate in different functions at a starting-management level. As an effective manager, I believe I can motivate others to continue our commitment and contribution to the fight against cancer. While opportunity exists with Varian to work abroad in global offices around the world, I know there is yet another dream–the dream of managing various operations in the Asian market. Being of Chinese origin, I believe I am in a good position to assist Varian in its operations in China. As the “sleeping dragon” of the Chinese economy continues to grow in economic importance and sophistication, I trust that this will become an even more attractive opportunity over time, and I will be in a favorable position to take advantage of it. Moreover, the incidence of cancer is on the rise, and our advancement in cancer treatments and technology will help battle cancer around the world.

To conclude, my working professional experiences to date have allowed me to learn a great deal while allowing me to pursue my professional ambitions. I know I will maintain the personal dedication and hard work necessary to achieve even greater goals in the future. My past experiences and diversity have adequately prepared me to receive a graduate degree from UNLV. Moreover, an MBA from UNLV will undoubtedly help me attain my long term goals. I understand that taking school on a part-time basis on top of work requires a lot of responsibility, dedication and time. My parents have raised me to be a hard worker, and I hope that one day my sons and daughters will see that, too. This scholarship will not only provide me with financial assistance, but will also help me to realize my dreams. I believe that I am an excellent candidate for this scholarship.

Copyright 2009,, a StraightForward Media property.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top