My name is Dr. Francis Ho, and I am a retired family doctor living and working in Vancouver. I am 89 years old and yet I am planning on participating in this year’s Stroll for Liver once again, as I do every year.
I became interested in the Canadian Liver Foundation more than 15 years ago because of one of my patients who happened to be involved with the organization. Monica, who is now the Western Director of the Canadian Liver Foundation, asked for my help, and I could not say no. I joined the board, and the rest is history.
After becoming roped-in by my patient, I sought to increase awareness, education, and funding for the fight against liver disease in my area, British Columbia. This effort has taken many forms over the years, and we are always expanding it. Supported by many important sponsors, we have conducted educational events to help promote awareness and get vital information to the community. We have been providing free Hepatitis B screening as part of our HepBeware initiative. And this year, we are hoping to expand our efforts for awareness to the Southeast Asian community in Vancouver. Statistically, the Southeast Asian population suffers greatly from some particular liver diseases, so we’ve formed a committee to address that. There is always work to be done.
I was also aware, because of my professional career, that many family doctors are not well informed about many of the liver diseases or of all the information that is available. By educating not only the general population but also the family doctors, we can help improve everyone’s health outcomes. With our training, those doctors are given an increased ability to diagnose and treat liver disease as early and as effectively as possible. Awareness and education are so important, and participants have expressed their enthusiasm and gratitude for this program. Personally, I had more than a hundred patients who suffer from liver disease while I was still practising medicine. Most of them, I usually referred to specialists, but because of my experience and information, I have knowledge I can now share with other general practitioners.
This year, our biggest challenge has been working around COVID-19 and the different ways that we have to do fundraising and awareness to maintain social distancing and good health. COVID-19 has had a big impact on fundraising, particularly on those surviving the economic changes among the grassroots donors. We rely a great deal on the regular folks who donate, however COVID-19 has restricted what people can give and do this year. We are not giving up but are determined and working toward our goals anyway.
For me, I have decided that I will complete 40,000 steps for this year’s STROLL for LIVER. At a dollar a step, I’m determined to do my part.
I do the STROLL every year (Dr. Ho’s Fundraising Page), though I am 89, and I encourage my patients and their families—anyone who knows someone with liver disease—to participate. Before COVID-19, we were steadily increasing the number of those involved in the STROLL, but we understand that participation this year will be impacted by the need to take precautions. I try to inspire people to realize that anybody can do this, however, if they have their mind made up and are determined to do some good. Maybe someone you know or someone you are related to has liver disease. One in 4 Canadians are affected by it, after all, and it’s a very real, very serious problem. The death rate from liver disease has now surpassed the death rate from strokes in Canada.
Maybe, like me, you think, “Why not use my remaining years to do something good for the public rather than stay at home and feel sorry for myself?” This is what I thought. I hope you feel the same.
Whatever people are able to do, I really appreciate people trying their best with the STROLL for LIVER.