National honour for Australia’s first Aboriginal surgeon

Jun 8 2021

Renowned Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon and University of Newcastle Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, has been awarded the 2021 Australian Society of Medical Research (ASMR) Medal. 

A pioneer who has dedicated his career to reducing hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and improving access to healthcare services, Associate Professor Kong’s research focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of otitis media or ‘glue ear’ in children under three.  

Otitis media is experienced at higher levels in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, affecting as many as 70 per cent of children in remote communities. It can lead to hearing impairment and/or loss, and failure to treat it can have negative impacts on children’s education, childhood development and social outcomes.   

A proud Worimi man from Port Stephens, the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) researcher practises in Newcastle as a surgeon and lectures in allied health at the University.

University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Zee Upton, said awarding the 2021 ASMR Medal to Associate Professor Kong was a wonderful tribute to the profound community impact of his work.

“Associate Professor Kong’s work has helped countless families journey to a better life. His regular visits to remote Australia to provide specialist ENT services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have helped changed the course for kids who are suffering,” said Professor Upton.

“Associate Professor Kong’s work epitomises our University’s goal to foster better, healthier living outcomes in our region and beyond and we’re incredibly proud to see him recognised and celebrated in this way.”

Associate Professor Kong is also working on studies of pathogenicity and antibiotic resistance with the hope of informing new treatments. 

HMRI Director Professor Mike Calford described Dr Kong as a trailblazer who has dedicated his career to reducing hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and improving access to healthcare services.

"We are very proud to have him as a researcher at HMRI and there could not be a more worthy recipient of this year's ASMR Medal."

As the ASMR 2021 Medallist, Associate Professor Kong will address the National Press Club on Tuesday, June 8.