As Alumni Weekend approaches, we’re profiling members of this year’s reunion classes! Learn why this ’98 alum is finally going to work fifteen years after graduation–as told by his freshman year roommate:
Fifteen years after graduating from GW, my former Thurston Hall roommate, Matthew Kwan, CCAS BS ’98, is finally going to work. However, he’s no slouch—this fall, he will begin his career as a plastic and hand surgeon at the Kaiser Medical Center Santa Clara, California.
Dr. Kwan grew-up in the Washington, DC area and attended the School Without Walls, located on GW’s campus. Upon graduating with honors from high school, Dr. Kwan received GW’s 21st Century Scholarship as part of the University’s efforts to incorporate motivated DC high school students to the Colonial student body.
Even in high school, Dr. Kwan knew he wanted to pursue a career in the medical profession. “I enjoyed helping people and studying sciences, so I began volunteering at hospitals,” he says.
Dr. Kwan and I were roommates for our first two years at GW, and we’ve been friends ever since. We were also friends with two other inspiring medical doctors, Don Collure and BJ Aluhwalia, whom also fulfilled their dreams. Don, BJ, and Matt stayed-up many late nights talking about MCATs and the other difficult prerequisites necessary to be accepted into medical school. It was a pleasure to watch them encourage each other through the late night study sessions.
Dr. Kwan credits GW for nurturing his aspirations. “GW is a place that encouraged community service and provided me with a global view,” he explains. “GW encouraged you to not only help those directly around you but to think about ways to reach those who may have multiple degrees of separation from you.”
Upon graduating with a BS in Chemistry from GW, Dr. Kwan went to medical school at the University of Maryland. While in his third year at medical school, Dr. Kwan was attracted to surgery. “Surgery attracts people who want instant gratification as you use your hands and use procedures to save a person’s life immediately,” he says.
Dr. Kwan had an immediate opportunity to save lives while a surgical resident at Temple University in Philadelphia. “Since the hospital was close to a violent part of the city, we encountered many life and death situations,” he says.
With his sights set on a career in plastic surgery, Dr. Kwan had to undergo many more years of training. He also conducted research for three years at Stanford University studying the potential to use stem cells from fats cells and to regenerate bone. “Fat is in such an abundance in the US and this technique of taking stem cells would help to minimize patient morbidity–currently, we have to remove parts of bone from another part of the body to repair large bone defects,” he explains.
Dr. Kwan continued his general surgery residency at Stanford, as well as two years of plastic surgery residency at University of California at San Francisco. He recently completed a year of hand and microsurgery fellowship at UCLA. Dr. Kwan recalls the hardship of receiving only a small salary and working late nights during his years of training: “I gave-up my 20s; when most people were out having fun and making money, I was up late nights working and studying. But it was worth it–I really enjoy what I do,” he says.
Dr. Kwan now calls the San Francisco Bay Area his home with his wife, Beverly Lui. They are both headed to a long well-deserved vacation to northern Italy and Croatia before Dr. Kwan begins his new career in late September. Since he will just be starting his new position at the hospital next month, he will likely miss our 15 year reunion–but the class of 1998 understands, and we’re very proud of our fellow Colonial!
–Michael Arcati, ESIA BA ’98, 15-year Reunion Committee Member