Vincent Kong was an entrepreneur, who built an international business in the diamond, gemstone, and jewelry industry. He was also a dedicated husband, dad, and grandpa who spent his life serving others—his family and friends, his church and the community at large.
As Mr. Kong’s family will tell you, he engaged in his personal and professional life with integrity and discipline, and placed tremendous value in innovation and work ethic. His manner was always positive, inclusive and kind. He pursued excellence. And, when seeking medical care, he sought experts who reflected and exemplified the same core values with which he lived his life.
UCI Health gastroenterologist Dr. Kenneth Chang, who saw Mr. Kong through his battle with cancer, was just such an expert, in Mr. Kong’s view. He offered technical prowess and novel approaches to treatment. His commitment to innovation paled only in comparison to his dedication to—and compassion for—those in his care.
It was Dr. Chang’s attention to detail that led him to perform an endoscopic ultrasound on January 2, 2013, uncovering a tumor on Mr. Kong's pancreas. Leiomyosarcoma originating in the pancreas is an extremely rare disease, with total worldwide historical cases numbering in the dozens. The journey the Kong family began that day was one that Dr. Chang and his colleagues at UCI Heath assured them they would not undertake alone.
From the point of diagnosis onward, Mr. Kong entrusted his care to Dr. Chang and the team at UCI Health. His cancer was treated with traditional measures—such as surgery, radio frequency ablation, radiation, and chemotherapy. It was also addressed using various endoscopic techniques Dr. Chang pioneered. These procedures not only served to attack the tumors, but also resulted in quicker recovery times and improved quality of life for Mr. Kong.
“There were many times during Vincent’s course of cancer treatment that he would ask for my input, whether I was providing the treatment or another physician was providing the treatment,” said Dr. Chang. “There would be other times where I’d be offering various options and I really needed his feedback to help me in terms of the weight of the advice.”
Working together Vincent Kong and Dr. Chang transformed the survival prognosis of six months into nearly seven additional years.
“He was a giant in his strength and courage,” said Dr. Chang. “He beat all the medical odds and statistics and he lived a full and vibrant life until his last weeks.”
The entrepreneur and family man embraced the invaluable gift of time, investing it into creating more memories with his loved ones that he and they would treasure. This included traveling the world with his wife, Anna, their son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Mandy, and grandchildren, Sara and Caleb. He became an avid youth sports fan, cheering on his grandchildren from the sidelines. He attended many more weddings, as people near and dear to him began new lives together. He celebrated more birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases and Easters. He worked less and lived more and, the family says, loved every minute of it.
Vincent Kong succumbed to his illness in the summer of 2019. The Kong family continues to support Dr. Chang and UCI in the ongoing fight against cancer.
Today, Dr. Chang holds the Vincent and Anna Kong Chair in Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Oncology—a tribute to the legacy of the venerated entrepreneur and family man, an individual Dr. Chang calls “one of the most thoughtful people I have ever had the honor of knowing.” The Vincent and Anna Kong Chair is one of the few chairs in gastrointestinal endoscopic oncology in the nation.
The 2021 Anti-Cancer Challenge is privileged to honor the family and their esteemed patriarch for their contributions to improving outcomes for patients battling disease today and to preventing disease and ultimately reducing the number of patients tomorrow.
This year, the Challenge also celebrates Dr. Chang for his enduring commitment to finding new and better ways to extend and enhance the lives of those who visit him seeking expert care.
“I am honored and blessed to be in the right place at the right time for people such as Vincent and to merely be an instrument of healing and hope,” said Dr. Chang.