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Former S’porean lawyer turned podiatrist found sole-mate in fellow Uni classmate

Finding his calling in Podiatry also led him to meet the love of his life, or rather his “sole-mate”.

Lucky is Benjamin Loh, 33, who met Kleio Tan, 23, while they were both pursuing a degree in Podiatry at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom (UK).

They met as healthcare scholars, became course mates in 2018 and drew closer as friends.

The next year, they were married. 

It’s almost funny how things fell into place, as the romance had seemed like a remote possibility on both sides, despite both of them being Singaporeans and also healthcare scholars.

The age gap between the pair seemed to be the main stumbling block.

Tan said: “Given our age gap and lack of interaction in the initial days, dating Benjamin was an idea that never crossed my mind. Benjamin also told our common friends at university that he would never date me as I was too young.”

In fact, Loh had even tried to match-make Tan with other mutual friends.

Thankfully for both of them, these matches did not work out.

The turning point

The turning point in their relationship came during their university’s Easter break in April 2019, when the pair took a trip to Eastern Europe with their group of friends. 

Being the only two “coffee addicts” in the group, Loh would offer to make a cup of coffee for Kleio every morning.

“He would always ask me when we woke up in the morning if I wanted coffee and I would say yes. Funny enough, the coffee always tasted sweet.”

Loh, the more reserved of the pair, revealed how Tan surprised him as they got to know each other better during the trip.

“I felt that Kleio was very mature for her age. I realised that she is a very perceptive person who had many interesting insights into the matters that we discussed and I could connect with her on a much deeper level than I had expected.”

Their feelings for each other soon grew.

Being course mates also meant that they could also lean on each other during their scholarship journey.

“I was able to seek Benjamin's guidance and wisdom when I faced challenges with my school work. Benjamin spent hours teaching me how to write clearly and effectively while we were in University, which is a skill that still benefits me greatly today.”

“Eventually, it dawned on me that Kleio could very well be the person that I was waiting for and I decided to ask her if she would like to take a leap of faith with me on a journey as a couple. She said yes.”

The couple eventually tied the knot in the UK and are now proud parents to a baby boy, Mateo. 

Image courtesy of Benjamin Loh and Kleio Tan

They consider themselves each other’s soulmates, or as Loh playfully puts it, “sole-mates”, because well, Podiatry.

But talking about work now is strictly out of bounds.

“We do not confide in each other about work to ensure a clear distinction between work and family time.”

That does not mean that the pair does not engage in their favourite Podiatry-related topics using clinical jargons, to the bizarre wonderment of everyone else present.

“Several relatives have said to us, "I cannot believe the conversation the both of you have”, essentially implying that our conversations were so bizarre to them,” an amused Tan shared.

Such conversations also make Loh appreciate his wife even more.

“While we separate work from family, we do discuss podiatry as a subject and share about how we manage different foot conditions given the available literature and practice. I would highlight again that the insights that Kleio would provide are highly insightful and meaningful,” Loh noted.

The couple is aware that Podiatry is not a well-known profession and is often misconceived, but it is something that they hope to change.

“Some people call us 'healthcare pedicurists' as we manage the toenails of diabetic patients who are at high risk of developing foot complications and manage pathological (fungal, thick or ingrown) toenails, but we do a lot more than toenail management,” Tan explained, referring to other treatments for foot and post-amputation wounds including surgery for ingrown toenails.

Loh, who quit practising law about six years ago, shared how Podiatry had a significant impact on his life, thanks to his past experience as a competitive squash player.

“Podiatry was a critical enabling factor in improving my foot health and hence, competitive edge while playing the sport,” said Loh.

But it was during his attachment at the SGH’s Podiatry department that cemented what he calls his “calling” in the profession.

“During the attachment stint, I could vividly envision myself becoming a clinician who treats patients with foot problems in a clinical setting.”

One might think that Law and Podiatry are worlds apart. However, Loh realised that all was not lost when he made the career change.

“Critical thinking, the ability to assimilate information quickly, and the ability to persuade were some of the key skills that were transferable,” reflected Loh, who now hopes to leave a “legacy of betterment” in the healthcare sector.

Through their shared experience, the pair have also built a strong network of friends. “We still keep in contact with our scholar friends and meet up with them very regularly,” added Tan.

And yes, love means accepting the other, warts and all.

Tan, who describes Loh as her soulmate, shared: “Through our interactions, he constantly inspires me to improve myself. He does not judge me for my flaws. He sees my jagged edges and parts of me that have been weathered by life. He sees the wars that I fight and still chooses to stand by my side. There was no way that I couldn't have been attracted to him.”

Loh agreed: “Kleio enables me to become a better version of myself. Her perspective on many matters that occur in our lives opens my mind to new insights. She is both my soulmate and 'sole-mate'.”

Needless to say, their scholarship journeys have been a “fruitful” and “enriching” experience in more ways than one. 

As Tan put it, “The best things that came out of this journey are:

1. My husband

2. I developed a greater passion for the Podiatry profession."

Loh currently works at Singapore General Hospital as a podiatrist, while Tan is based at Tan Tock Seng Hospital as a podiatrist.

For more information on the podiatry profession, you may visit Care to Go Beyond and Podiatry Association (Singapore).

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a podiatrist, MOHH offers overseas scholarships for podiatry. Find out more here.

Top image courtesy of Benjamin Loh and Kleio Tan.

This article was first published in Republished with permission