Dr. Fay Horng has been fascinated by medicine and the human body since she was a child. From a young age, seeing her mother work as a physical therapist only increased her thirst for medical knowledge.
Dr. Horng's love of medicine is coupled with her focus on patients. She puts forth a great effort to ensure her patients feel comfortable and reassured before they go into surgery. When educating others, she reminds them to remember their passion for helping people, and we hope her experience will encourage you to do the same.
What motivated you to work in healthcare?
I’ve always had an innate fascination with anatomy and how the human body works. As a kid after school, I was able to watch my mom work at a VA hospital as a physical therapist. Later, when I was in middle school, I got involved in patient transport for community service and spent time chatting with veterans. I was fortunate to shadow a female orthopedic surgeon when I was in high school. When I observed a hip-replacement first-hand and responded with fasciation instead of revulsion to surgery, I decided to pursue medicine.
When did you decide to specialize in anesthesiology?
It was between my third and fourth years at medical school that I decided on anesthesiology. I really enjoyed the rotations I did in internal medicine and OBGYN but the surgical rotation was my favorite at the time. I chose to take an anesthesia elective on the recommendation from a fellow student because it was very hands-on with procedures and IV placements. I thought the rotation was exciting and saw a lot of overlap in subject matter between anesthesiology and the other specialties that I was considering. This is what put anesthesiology on my radar.
Why did you select anesthesiology over other medical specialties?
I liked working with my hands and doing technical procedures but even more I was fascinated by observing physiology in real-time and the immediate effects of medications. I felt at ease in the operating room working as part of a team with doctors and nurses. There was so much variety in what you were doing on any given day, whether that be responding to code situations, delivering anesthesia during surgeries, talking with patients during preoperative visits, or reassuring them on the way to surgery. I helped to take care of children, adults, the elderly, and women in labor. I appreciated that type of diversity.
Talking to doctors in different specialties and asking them about their satisfaction with work and work-life balance was very important to me. I knew I wanted to spend my time on family and a medical career. OBGYN and surgery didn’t have as much flexibility for female physicians in terms of scheduling. Anesthesiology provided the flexibility I needed and was both stimulating and rewarding.
Having nine years of experience in the field, what is something important that you’ve learned that you would like to pass on to students?
I’ve learned that the doctors that I admire most are the ones who are always working to improve themselves in their practice. They’re always searching for better ways to help their patients. There is a lot of collective knowledge in the medical community already, but there are always new medical discoveries or new ways of thinking. We are not finished with our education when we graduate from school and pass the board exam. When you’re in medicine, you have to be committed to lifelong learning and adaptability. People who aren’t complacent in their mastery of the practice of medicine are those who drive the advancement of the field.
It’s also important to remember your original passion for helping people so that your job stays meaningful. A lot of practitioners genuinely want to make someone else’s life better, but logistical challenges like time pressure or cost pressure can be overwhelming. There are so many chances in a day for anesthesia providers to positively impact others, whether it be to relieve pain and anxiety or treat a medical condition, or simply be kind. Don’t lose focus of those opportunities to help.
What went into your decision to accept the medical director position?
Since I finished my anesthesiology training, I have been involved in resident and student education. The previous medical director spoke very highly of his time in the position; he felt that it was one of the most rewarding endeavors of his career. After hearing that endorsement it was quite easy to accept the position.
My goal is to help students become anesthetists who possess both the knowledge and compassion required to deliver high quality medical care. I want the graduates of this program to be anesthetists that I can trust in caring not only for myself if I need it, but for my parents and children.
As the medical director of the Washington D.C. program, what are some of your responsibilities?
I’ll be working closely with the program director and addressing any student concerns with the program. I’ll be tracking the academic progress of students and program accreditation. I will continue to teach at the clinical site and I hope to get involved with preclinical teaching as well.
What qualities of the D.C. area hospitals make for a valuable anesthesia training experience?
The mix of hospitals and different practice environments is very desirable for students. There’s everything from a community hospital to a large trauma center, and also one of the top children’s hospitals in the country. Students will definitely encounter varied clinical situations. We have consistent feedback from graduates that they feel more than prepared for their jobs when they finish their training.
What’s your favorite part about living near Washington D.C.?
I live in the D.C. metro area of Rockville, Maryland, which is about an hour outside of the city. Traffic could be better, but I do love being close to a mix of parks, unique restaurants, national landmarks, and international neighborhoods. An added bonus is getting to see more of my friends and family, since a lot of them want to visit the nation’s capital at least once.