Is there a doctor in the house?
That question, heard from time to time in restaurants and at events when an emergency occurs, may well be answered with a quintet’s chorus of “Yes,” if Dr. Harry Ching and his extended family happen to be on hand.
“The practice of medicine just happens to be something we enjoy,” said Ching, who noted that his brother specializes in anesthesiology and his cousins in vascular surgery, allergy/immunology, and general ENT.
A graduate of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Ching completed an otolaryngology-head & neck surgery residency at UNLV prior to recently finishing further fellowship training in facial plastic & reconstructive surgery at the University of California, Irvine.
“My parents were very big on education,” Ching recalled, pointing out that his parents and some of their brothers and sisters immigrated to the United States from Taiwan. “Education was always the No. 1 priority growing up. They didn’t push me into any field, but they did mention medicine would be a good field.”
Early Computer Interest
Science first became an interest of Ching’s because of computers. He and his older brother would tear one apart and then learn to build them in the living room when they were in elementary and middle school.
“If you knew how to build computers back then, it was pretty affordable to build them from scratch. That got me interested in engineering and electronics. When I became exposed to the traditional sciences in school, I found that I had a knack for the type of conceptual thinking that is needed in things like physics and chemistry. Biology was fascinating as well.”
With his older brother and cousins already pursuing medicine, Ching said his interest morphed into that area also. Wanting to learn more about the health care field during his undergraduate years at the University of California, Berkeley — he earned a bachelor’s degree there in bioengineering — Ching became a volunteer at Oakland Children’s Hospital, transporting children and caring for them in the playroom. He also shadowed physicians to learn more about their day-to-day work.
“I loved the idea of the art of medicine, interacting with patients on a personal level, and finding out about them through discussion and exams in order to solve their problems.”
Ching said he chose to pursue a specialty at UNLV “because of how unique it is within the surgical specialties. The anatomy of the head and neck is intricate. The breadth of the surgery within the specialty is quite amazing — everything from large cancer removal to plastic surgery to functional surgeries, including giving deaf children the ability to hear, surgery to improve the voice, and allowing people to breathe.”
He said he went on to further specialize in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery “because of the artistic aspect and the problem-solving aspects I very much enjoy. We apply our knowledge of anatomy and create changes to do things such as improve an aesthetic appearance, improve function, such as breathing through the nose, or reconstruct an area that has been damaged by cancer or trauma. Because of what a huge impact this has on a patient’s life, it is very rewarding, especially because it deals with a patient’s face. A patient’s problem and each surgery can be approached in multiple ways, and the problem-solving involved in order to come up with the best solution for the patient makes every case interesting.”
Ching, who’s performed successful surgery on a motorcyclist who broke every bone in his face, also remembers a surgery that the COVID-19 pandemic made more difficult.
“Because the nose is such a central focus of the face, its reconstruction is quite sensitive. We had to take out part of a patient’s rib in order to have cartilage to reconstruct the skeleton of the nose. At the same time, we had to use tissue from the patient’s forehead in order to reconstruct the skin of the nose. The way we do this is to take tissue from the forehead and keep it attached to the forehead and let it heal on the nose. After about three to four weeks, we then detach the connection between the forehead and the nose. However, COVID happened in the middle of this process and the patient was delayed an unusually long time, about three to four months where he had a pedicle of tissue going from his forehead to the tip of his nose. This was a challenge for him but eventually we were able to do his second and third surgeries in order to bring his nose back close to how it was before his cancer.”
At the UNLV School of Medicine, Ching is looking forward to teaching. “I want to pass what I know on” — and to a facial plastic surgery practice. “Nearly all academic ENT departments have a facial plastic surgeon. Before me, the ENT department at UNLV hasn’t had a subspecialist in facial plastic surgery in many years. There’s definitely a shortage and a need for my sub-specialty and ENT in general in this city. Since I did residency here, I was pretty familiar with the opportunity that this gives me, and I already know the other docs in the department well. It was a great fit.”
Ching has particular interests in the treatment of nasal obstruction, sinus disease, nasal deformity, reconstruction of the face for skin cancer, and facial trauma. He also performs cosmetic surgery of the face — rhinoplasty, facelift, blepharoplasty, brow lift, Asian eyelid surgery, scar revision, Botox, and injectable filler treatments.
He’ll also continue his research. He has been published in a number of peer-reviewed journals, including Head & Neck and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Journal.
Though COVID-19 has made him delay his wedding, Ching said that what helps him mellow out through this difficult time is going to the gym. Turns out his gym is a tad different than what most Las Vegans use. Called the Las Vegas Circus Center, it offers programs for professionals as well as those just starting their exploration into the circus arts. He does flips on the trampoline, tumbling, walks on his hands, does exercises on the rings, and swings on the trapeze.
“It’s a cool gym,” he said. “I use it just for recreation, but it definitely gives you a good workout.”