Martin Ching | Leadership in Medicine: Southeast Asia

Martin Ching

Some of the earliest lessons Martin Ching, MB BS, BSc, LLB, MDS, Grad Dip Leg Prac, FRACDS (OMS) FACCSM (Surg) FIAOMS, FAAFPS MAICD, learned in childhood are the ones that he now credits for his success on many fronts as an adult. He also recently attended Harvard Medical School’s Leadership in Medicine: Southeast Asia program and found that building on this strong foundation enabled him to stretch his already fulfilling career in exciting directions.

Ching is an Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon who runs six specialty clinics and two day-surgery hospitals. He is also a lawyer, a teacher, a businessman and a property developer. While this may sound like a lot of responsibilities for one person to manage, Ching takes it all in stride—even continuing to add new challenges and titles to his list of accomplishments regularly. And although on the outside it seems like he must have more hours in the day than other people, he says that the exceptional organizational skills he developed in childhood, coupled with the strategic leadership training Harvard provided, has taught him to seamlessly juggle so many tasks.

Building on Childhood Lessons

Ching’s journey to the top really began when he was just six years old. Back then he would wake up at 3:00 AM during school vacations to help his father buy wholesale fruits and vegetables to sell at a stall at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia, which was right across the street from the house where they lived. He points out that having such responsibility on his shoulders at such a young age taught him how to work hard. It also taught him how to use his time efficiently so that he could manage his academics, sports and work.

“When you work at Victoria Market, your math skills become quick—measuring, weighing, making calculations,” Ching explains. He adds that he initially learned to work using the imperial pounds system but a few years later, Australia changed to the metric system, which meant that he had to learn to convert numbers quickly and accurately. When Ching was a little older, his father also opened a restaurant and asked him and his siblings to memorize the 51-item menu. He says this taught him how to group things by category. These, and many other skills, still guide his efforts today.

Putting Organizational Skills to Work

After graduating from high school, Ching went onto college and trained as a dentist first, then completed required training in medicine in order to embark on a career to become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. Upon completing his qualifications, which took 14 years from start to finish, he designed his own day hospitals, breaking from the traditional mold and setting up his layout to support two teams of staff who could work simultaneously to prepare more patients to be operated on, thus allowing him to perform more surgeries in one day than other Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in similar practices.

He says he accomplished this by once again planning every step of every procedure down to the number of gauze pieces and other supplies he would use in order to maximize time and resources.

“Organization is the key to my success,” Ching says. “I always wanted to organize my life in every aspect—clothes, finances, sports, schoolwork,” he recalls. Breaking down tasks into smaller steps or lists that he can follow makes even the most complicated project possible to grasp and allows him to do so efficiently. Nonetheless, he still felt he couldn’t rest on his successes.

Exploring a New Career Path

“After 10 years as a surgeon, I started to worry what if something happening to my eyes or my hands? This could prevent me from ever being able to operate again.” This prompted him to go back to school again—this time focusing on law so that he would have a second career to fall back on. “I thought that even if I lost my sight or my hands, I could still listen and use my brain,” he says. Therefore, he spent the next few years earning a law degree and registering as a lawyer, even though he does not practice full-time since surgery remains his current focus.

Embracing Enhanced Leadership Training

Yet, Ching was still driven to do more. “I decided I wanted to do a bit more studying, and that’s when I saw Harvard’s Leadership in Medicine: Southeast Asia program, which offered a way to build my leadership skills,” he recalls. This postgraduate medical education certificate appealed to him because he wanted to get up to date on the newest concepts of leadership from experts in the field and find new ways to think more strategically.

The program met his expectations and more. He says that the insights he gained from the coursework helped him look more critically at how to lead in different settings and prompted new ways to think outside of the box.

“I learned that you can’t be a leader from the top down,” he says. “You have to do the things other people say they can’t do, so you can try to figure out a solution and create a template they can use to guide their efforts,” he says. “My enhanced leadership skills are helping me figure out how to lead forward, while still building on my instinct and experience,” he says.

Finding Leadership Opportunities Within Challenges

Ching also developed more confidence to try new things and be truly innovative. For instance, as he was just completing the Harvard program, the COVID-19 pandemic set in and he decided to put his lessons to the test, looking for the opportunities that existed in the midst of all of the challenges unfolding around him, rather than resigning himself to the current state of events.

This ultimately prompted him to take a step in a completely new direction; he bought a resort in Fiji that was on the market due to the pandemic, and now he is currently renovating it, transforming it into a very upscale experience for travelers. He also partnered with friends to start his own law school that can fill a need to provide practical training experience for students. In addition, he invested in the stock market when values were down to help his capital grow. Finally, he rethought his business model to provide more virtual consultations during lockdowns and hopes to continue this practice, which enables him to be even more efficient.

“The Harvard leadership program gave me real insight into how everything works and when it works,” Ching says. He stresses that this has enriched his experiences in ways he could not have imagined.

A Passion for Continuing Medical Education

But he emphasizes that despite all his accomplishments, he still has a hunger to do more. In fact, he admits that the one item on his list of life goals he has not yet achieved is earning his PhD from Harvard. The leadership training program really demonstrated the value the faculty and other students can bring. Therefore, he hopes in the near future to go back to Harvard one more time to earn his doctorate in health and law. Then he believes he will finally be satisfied that he has done it all.

Learn more about Leadership in Medicine: Southeast Asia.

Written by Lisa D. Ellis