Dr Ai Ling Tan is a highly-experienced gynaecological oncologist specialising in the surgical treatment of gynaecological cancers, pre-cancers and some non-cancerous gynaecological conditions. Complementing this work is her passion for preventing and training people to treat cancer in developing countries within the South West Pacific region.
Born in Penang, Malaysia, Ai Ling is of Malay/Chinese/Thai ethnicity. She lived in Malaysia as a young child before moving with her family to South Australia. Ai Ling achieved her initial medical degree at the University of Adelaide, then completed her training at the Flinders Medical Centre Adelaide, National Women’s Hospital Auckland, Brighton Hospital UK, Royal Hospital for Women Sydney and the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. Ai Ling lived in Auckland on and off between 1986 and 1999, then moved to New Zealand permanently in 2002.
Ai Ling completed 24 years in New Zealand’s public health system as a specialist then subspecialist, based at National Women’s Hospital and Auckland Hospital. After migrating totally to the private sector in late 2019, she now works within the Ascot Central Women’s Clinic, where she is a director. Ai Ling is also a director of the NZ Family Cancer Service, associated with the diagnostic testing initiative Know Now Lab and actively involved in organising medical conferences and workshops, where she is often a key presenter. Ai Ling trains and mentors numerous early-career gynecol-onc subspecialists and sits on a number of professional committees.
Ai Ling has two significant firsts to her credit. She was the first female gynaecological oncologist in New Zealand and the first Asian gynaecological oncologist in New Zealand. As such, she is keen to nurture the next generation of female ethnically-diverse specialists in our country. Ai Ling was also a founding trustee of the New Zealand Gynaecological Foundation and served on the foundation’s board for 10 years, until late 2016. During this time she was an effective advocate for educating New Zealand women about gynaecological cancers.
Beyond her work in New Zealand, Ai Ling is involved with several health projects in developing nations of the South West Pacific. Her contribution to these projects is focused on prevention and elimination of cervical cancer, improving the provision of cancer services and running a sub-specialist training programme that allows smaller nations of the Pacific to upskill medical workers and eventually eliminate the need for patients to travel to for treatment (a luxury that very few of them can afford). Her ultimate vision is to establish a women’s cancer centre in the South West Pacific, staffed by locals and visiting volunteers.
From a career and skills point of view, Ai Ling is expanding her knowledge by learning more about governance and business management. She currently sits on a number of boards, where she has the opportunity to grow her organisational expertise.