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World-renowned Provo cardiologist retires, heads to Cambodia

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 1, 2022

Courtesy Revere Health

Dr. Chun Hwang is retiring after 30 years and will now teach cardiology in Cambodia.

He has travelled throughout the world helping those who are literally heart-sick, but it will be his coworkers at Revere Health’s cardiology clinics throughout Utah County that will feel a bit heart-broken Friday when Dr. Chun Hwang says good-bye and hello to retirement — sort of.

Hwang’s career in cardiology has been nothing less than extraordinary, according to his peers. Throughout his nearly 30 years practicing medicine, he has earned national and international acclaim as he pioneered new heart rhythm therapies and trained cardiologists around the world.

While managing a full schedule, Hwang continued to contribute as a scientist and professor. He has authored 56 peer-reviewed science publications, most of which were written during his full-time clinical service at Revere Health.

Hwang’s most notable work includes the patenting of an intra-cardiac defibrillation device and his clinical professorships at UCLA and University of Utah, Tom Betar, Revere Health Communications manager, said in a statement.

Hwang has also received attention on his work from leading cardiologists around the world.

Dr. Chen Peng-Sheng, senior research professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and editor-in-chief of Heart Rhythm, the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, recently put Hwang’s contributions to cardiology, specifically electrophysiology, in perspective.

“Dr. Hwang is known in the scientific world for his seminal work discovering the importance of treating the Vein of Marshall during complex atrial fibrillation ablation,” Peng-Sheng said in a statement. “He was also the first to describe the eccentric nature of the re-entry limb of AV nodal re-entry tachycardia. He has unparalleled ability to locate arrhythmogenic focus, the one indispensable talent in the room when confronted with a complex case. He is a dedicated teacher and always unselfish to share his knowledge and skill.”

Betar added that Hwang’s commitment to the field can be seen through his work in Utah Valley, that he’s known for his endurance and often works 100-hour weeks to meet patient demands.

Dr. David Wang, another electrophysiologist at Revere Health, said, “I didn’t know where Provo, Utah was, but I knew I wanted to learn from Dr. Hwang. In the early days, Chun was one of a handful of cardiologists in the world with the skill to treat complex arrhythmia. He is a true pioneer in his field. He is intensely dedicated to his craft. There is no one too sick, no case too difficult. He is tougher than the arrhythmia. He doesn’t eat or sleep until the patient is better, and the work is done.”

While Hwang may be retiring from his Revere Health practice, he’s not done working. He and his wife Sandra will take their medical knowledge and head to Cambodia to train cardiologists at the Korea University Medical Center.

Those students will eventually staff the city hospitals in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Hwang then plans to build advanced arrhythmia services in Laos and Myanmar, according to Betar.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Hwang has been asked to perform surgeries in countries where his skills were not yet available. He has spent considerable time and money equipping foreign hospitals and training their cardiologists to treat abnormal heart rhythms,” Betar said.

Hwang and his wife even established a foundation to fund new electrophysiology equipment and physician training programs in developing countries. The cardiologists he has trained were often the first in their own country to master advanced cardiac techniques. He established the first such programs in Austria, Israel, India, New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam.

Now celebrated for decades of pioneering work, the journey to this point was not simple for the Hwang family. Both he and his wife’s families fled North Korea in 1950, at the beginning of the Korean War.

After they resettled in South Korea, Chun and Sandra were born and their families eventually immigrated to Brazil 15 years later.

Hwang was originally interested in marine biology, but his father insisted on a more “dignified” vocation, so he attended medical school at the University of Brasilia. He graduated at the top of his class in 1982. That is also where he met Sandra while she was in nursing school.

The two moved to Los Angeles in 1985 where Hwang studied cardiology and later specialized in the treatment of irregular heart rhythms at Cedars-Sinai/UCLA. He and Dr. Scott Bingham, current President of Revere Health, trained together at Cedars-Sinai. Dr. Hwang also took a clinical professorship at UCLA, becoming the surgeon of choice for complex arrhythmia cases in southern California.

Discussing his long-time colleague and friend, Bingham called Hwang, “the epitome of medical knowledge and skill, paired with tireless energy and charity. He holds himself to the highest standard of clinical excellence and work ethic. He quietly goes out of his way to help those in need, giving without pay or honor. I have wondered what motivates him. I think it is to help where others have failed, and to assist the unfortunate and under-privileged. He is a great human being.”

In 1995, the Hwangs brought their young family of four from Los Angeles to Provo. He built the first heart arrhythmia service at Utah Valley Hospital and Timpanogos Hospital, and was the first in the Intermountain West to perform comprehensive ablation for patients with atrial fibrillation. Patients came to Provo from around the world for his surgical expertise, Betar said.

When out of the office, Hwang likes off-roading, hiking, and photography and actively serves in his church with Sandra. It would’ve been easy for him to fully retire, to go on a well-deserved vacation. Instead, he sees his retirement as a new beginning.

“There is still so much to do,” Hwang said. “Sandra and I look forward to many more years of service in developing countries around the world. We hope to use our years of experience to improve the quality of healthcare where we are needed most.”


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