What are your research interests?
- Ear disease in Australian Indigenous populations is deplorable. I am working to closing the gap in ear health to bring all Indigenous Australian children to the same level of well-being and health care access as their non-Indigenous counterparts. The rates of ear disease are higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across Australia, with some communities having 90% of young children affected. This causes hearing loss leading to massive disadvantage in early learning and development of language and social skills, which can have devastating repercussions throughout life.
- Our Newcastle ear research team works to understand the pathophysiology of chronic ear disease in Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous sufferers to understand the nature of ear infections and find better treatments and preventative approaches in early childhood. Unfortunately, some babies will acquire infections within the first months of life and go on to have recurrent infections that impact upon their ability to hear and learn. Importantly missing on hearing the voices (and stories) of their family members at this vitally important period of early development.
- I aim to make a national profile of the problem of ear disease and hearing loss. It is an important issue for all Australian levels of government, policy makers and health service providers. The severe impact imposed by hearing loss needs greater acknowledgement, especially in communities where a majority of people are affected, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We are also seeing too many children in our urban, regional and rural communities being affected and waiting too long for access to specialist care. This is a health problem that costs our nation a great deal of money, not just in medical treatments but in the social cost of people not receiving enough education to get a good job and provide security for themselves and their families in the future.
- The journey of solving the ear health issues must be community led and translated into models of care that have a holistic approach. Our research must also have capacity and ensure any solutions are sustainable.
Why did you get into research?
It was heartbreaking growing up in the Worimi community enduring the health disparities first hand. I have always had a passion to help address the inequality and have been lucky enough to be afforded the opportunities to allow me to complete the full circle and be a care giver. As an ENT surgeon I have treated people all across Australia, including people in Newcastle (Awabakal country), with terrible states of ear disease. The lack of access to health care and the escalation of a problem that should have been addressed long ago, is a driver to increase the momentum of a solution. The impact of research into the causes and interventions, cannot be overestimated, so that young babies will not progress to the stage where surgery is desperately needed to restore some hearing so they can participate in a normal childhood and have aspirations and dreams not limited by their hearing.
What would be the ultimate goal for your research?
The ultimate goal is for all Australian children, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to have the same chance of having healthy ears, no matter where they reside in Australia. We need everyone to have enough awareness of the problems, to put the time and resources into finding treatments and interventions, so that no child should expect to go through life suffering the loneliness, loss of self-esteem and lack of education that many children experience with ear disease and as adults in later life.
Kelvin graduated from the University of NSW in 1999. He embarked on his internship at St. Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst and pursued a surgical career, completing resident medical officer and registrar positions at various attachments. Along the way, he has been privileged in serving the urban, rural and remote communities.
He was awarded his fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 2007. Once completed he pursued further training in Paediatric ENT surgery, being grateful and honored by his fellowship at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne in 2007-8. He is now practising in Newcastle (Awabakal Country) as a Surgeon specializing in Paediatric & Adult Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery (Ear, Nose & Throat Surgery). He has joined an outstanding group of surgeons at Hunter ENT and together they provide a varied comprehensive practice. He has a very broad adult and paediatric Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology practice, whilst having special interests in Paediatric Airway, Adult and Paediatric Cochlear Implantation, Voice and Swallow disorders and Head & Neck Cancer management.
He is an active member of RACS and ASOHNS, serving on the Indigenous Health and Fellowship Services Committees. He has published articles and presented on a variety of ear, nose and throat conditions as well as Indigenous health issues both nationally and internationally. He is active in reviewing articles for publication, lecturing and teaching allied health professional, medical students at several universities and both unaccredited and advanced medical and surgical trainees. His commitment and professionalism was recognised in July 2017 when he was appointed the Secretary of the Australian New Zealand Society of Paediatric Otolaryngology. He was also honored to have won the Australian Indigenous Doctor of the year in 2017.
As Australia's first Indigenous surgeon, Prof. Kong is committed to improving the ear health of Indigenous children and has often participated in news articles and television interviews to bring the attention of the Australian public to the disparity in Indigenous and non-Indigenous child health. He makes regular trips to Australia's remote regions to provide ear health services that would otherwise not be available.
Kelvin hails from the Worimi people of Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Being surrounded by health, he has always championed for the improvement of health and education. Complementing his practice as a surgeon, he is kept grounded by his family, who are the strength and inspiration to him, remaining involved in numerous projects and committees to help give back to the community.
Being able to hear is such a privilege often taken for granted. The quality of life through the enjoyment if sound and education is a human right. I want everyone to understand the importance of ear disease in childhood and particularly how vital it is that we stop this problem from affecting so many Australian Indigenous children. We need to work together to raise the standards of living and access to medical care so that our First people are not living from one generation to the next in sub-standard circumstances. We need to see our children finishing their education, able to gain employment and live alongside non-Indigenous Australians with the same opportunities and the same quality of life. We need see them to strive toward their dreams.
- Consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon
- Causes of ear infections
- Paediatric Airway
- Adult and Paediatric Cochlear Implantation
- Voice and Swallow disorders
- Head & Neck Cancer management
- Randomised controlled trials
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
- Policy development
- Father, Husband, Brother, Worimi man