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The Conversation

Celebrating Dr. Kong Tai Heong, the first Chinese woman to practice Western medicine in Hawaiʻi

Louise Ing_Richard Ing_Laura Baker.jpeg
Louise Ing
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Louise Ing (L) with brother Richard Ing (C) and sister Laura Baker (R) holding grand-aunt Li Ling Ai's book

Today is International Women's Day and we’re celebrating a woman who made significant contributions to Hawaiʻi — obstetrician Dr. Kong Tai Heong. She’s credited as the first Chinese woman to practice Western medicine in the islands, after sailing from Canton, China to Honolulu with her husband Dr. Li Khai Fai in 1896. Dr. Kong was also a certified midwife and counseled expectant mothers for over 50 years. In 1946, she was featured in Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” for having delivered more babies than any other private practitioner in the U.S. — over 6,000! Dr. Kong also helped establish the First Chinese Church of Christ and served as President of the Honolulu Chinese Orphanage Society. She passed away in 1951 at the age of 76. Several of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren are practicing doctors, including Dr. Michael Sia, Pediatrics Chair at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, who helped with this story.

The Conversation’s Lillian Tsang sat down with Dr. Kong’s great-granddaughter, Louise Ing, to learn more about the lasting legacy of her family's trailblazing matriarch.

This interview aired on The Conversation on March 8, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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