Soong doesn't just treat patients in the U.S. In medical school, he began volunteering with a group called FOR Nicaraguan Health. For the past eight years, he has made a trip almost annually to Nicaragua to work in a clinic in Granada. "It's pure medicine," he says. "There's no insurance and very little paperwork." He simply diagnoses the various ailments of the patients who come to him and designs courses of treatment that take into account the reality of poverty and limited access to drugs. In the U.S., "you can easily get lost in the bureaucracy of medicine," Soong says. Working in a developing country, "you realize why you're doing this in the first place."
The clinic visitors appreciate it, says Frances Owens, executive director of FOR Nicaraguan Health (and also one of Soong's immunology patients in Birmingham). "He's very patient," she says. "He delves into problems and is very attentive in listening."
*Correction (3/5/09): The sentence originally stated that Soong engineered mice that were missing genes.