a doctor's balancing act

Michelle Liu
December 26, 2023

Rupa Wong, M.D., is proof that you can do it all. She’s an ophthalmologist, a mother of three, and an entrepreneur. Yet she still finds time to educate the public on eye health and what it’s like to be a female surgeon. Between her TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube accounts, Dr. Wong has more than 326,000 followers.

Dr. Wong with her three children.

“It’s been fun!” she says. “I think people are fascinated by our lives here in Hawai'i, that my husband and I work alongside each other, and that I’m a surgeon with three kids.”

Her youngest child, Arya, makes frequent appearances in the TikTok videos. In fact, Dr. Wong’s first video that went viral featured the mother and daughter duo taking part in the 2020 trend of showing off their culture.

Later that year, Dr. Wong went viral again after busting the myth that reading in the dark damages the eyes. Her TikTok and Instagram accounts took off and people began to recognize Dr. Wong and her family in public.

“I think it gave me a lot of street cred with my younger family members when someone recognized me in Vancouver,” Dr. Wong says with a laugh. “I asked someone to take a picture of me and my family and they said, ‘I think I follow you on TikTok!‘”

While that aspect of social media is exciting, it’s not why Dr. Wong created a public profile. She wanted a platform to raise awareness of an eye disorder, strabismus (misaligned eyes), which is one of her specialties. With this condition, your eyes don't point in the same direction.

“Many doctors will never mention to their patients that this can be treated,” says Dr. Wong. “I think there’s a barrier about not wanting to draw attention to someone’s eye that’s crossed or wandering out. But we’re doing patients a disservice if we don’t put the information out there and let them know that it can be surgically corrected.”

Since she started creating content on social media, Dr. Wong has heard from people across the country, telling her they didn’t know surgery was possible.

“I love getting the follow-up message, 'I found you on TikTok and just had my surgery. It went great!’ That’s one of the most rewarding things, being able to broaden that reach and education to people around the world,” she says.

Rupa and her husband, Jeffery Wong, M.D.

The wisdom she’s sharing goes beyond eye health. Rupa and her husband, Jeffrey Wong, M.D., co-own Honolulu Eye Clinic. She started receiving messages from female medical students asking how she started a private practice, how to run a business, and questions on work-life balance.

“It’s neat to be able to inspire the next generation,” says Rupa. “They can see it’s possible to be a surgeon, small business owner, medical conference co-founder, have three kids, and still be present for your family.”

Photos courtesy Rupa Wong, M.D.

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