Dr. Dong Xiang is a board-certified hematologist and medical oncologist with over 33 years of experience in the medical field. His interest in medicine dates back to when he was a young boy living in China.
Dr. Xiang was introduced to medicine at an early age by his father who was a pharmacist that grew Chinese herbal medicine and helped people on a daily basis. This had a profound impact on Dr. Xiang’s life and ultimately his career choice. His motivation to provide compassionate care for others developed and he began on the path to becoming a physician. “I felt a calling to care for patients – It was my life goal,” he expressed.
Dr. Xiang went on to receive his medical degree from Southern Medical University in China before moving to the United States where he was involved in groundbreaking breast cancer research at The UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in North Carolina. Dr. Xiang played a vital role in the initial design and development of the Prosigna® Breast Cancer Assay which changed the treatment paradigm for women with breast cancer. This tool is a genomic test that comprehensively informs the risk of recurrence, helping patients make decisions regarding next steps in their plan of treatment. Dr. Xiang went on to complete his medical residency training at the South East Area Health Education Center (SEAHEC) program affiliated with the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.
“I’ve met a lot of smart people [along the line] that have made contributions to the advancement of medicine, including breast cancer research,” said Dr. Xiang. “Those are the kind of things that motivate you and touch you on a deeper level – that’s what drew me into this field.”
Dr. Xiang went on to complete his Fellowship at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he was recruited as a Phase 1 Director shortly thereafter. It was during this time that he continued his research in breast cancer and ultimately developed a HER2 breast cancer vaccine using fusion protein of anti- CD19 single chain variable fragment technology. His goal was to bring his research and treatment to clinical practice. For this contribution to medicine, Dr. Xiang received the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Merit Award.
Dr. Xiang decided to move to the West Coast to delve into immunotherapy and expand on his research. He became a faculty member at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland before settling in Los Angeles with his family.
“Who doesn’t love LA?” said Dr. Xiang. “It’s such a diverse city.”
Dr. Xiang joined The Oncology Institute in early 2022. He is the Medical Director at our San Gabriel clinic, where he gets to focus on serving Chinese patients. 80% of his patients are Chinese and only speak Chinese, Cantonese, Mandarin, or a Chinese dialect. Being from China, Dr. Xiang understands the unique intersections of culture, language, and attitudes towards Western medicine within the Chinese community.
“Before I came here [to TOI], delivering a diagnosis was a relatively simple task,” said Dr. Xiang. He mentioned that the Chinese population is unique in the sense most patients are elderly with language barriers – and if their children are their caretakers, sometimes their children prefer not to tell their parents everything. They are afraid that if the patient knows all the information about their prognosis, they might fall into grief without the opportunity to get any treatment at all.
“In Western medicine, we are obligated to tell the patient what is going on if they would like to know – as I always like to tell patients what the facts are. However, you need to account for and integrate that part of the culture into your practice and bring everyone into the same conversation. In a sense, you need to bring up all the facts in a subtle fashion to let them understand rather than directly tell them.”
Building trust with patients and their families is paramount and the most rewarding part of being an oncologist according to Dr. Xiang. “When you have the trust of a patient, they feel better about their prognosis, and more cooperative with treatment as well. Even though they may have an advanced stage of cancer, you can make them feel at ease knowing you understand their unique needs.”
For Dr. Xiang understanding the patient above all, as well as respecting their wishes for life after diagnosis is what truly makes a difference in the lives of his patients.
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