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Patrick Vincent Caramat — Pursuing a Respiratory Therapy Degree Overseas at The Ohio State University

Patrick and his schoolmates during an Arterial Blood Gas Simulation lesson

Caring for others has always been a part of Patrick Caramat's life. His mother, a senior nurse at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, did not have regular work hours due to her shift rotations and this made it challenging for her to spend time with Patrick and his siblings.

But she never let it get to her and always made time for them. Some of Patrick's fondest memories are of his time talking with her right after a shift. During these moments, she would share funny experiences in the ward with him, and this would spark a passion for healthcare in him.

So it should be no surprise that Patrick decided to follow in her footsteps. But it would be some time before he realised that a career in Respiratory Therapy was right for him.

And that would first come about when he was pursuing a Diploma in Biomedical Science at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Experiencing the More Human Side of Medicine

The Healthcare Scholarships team caught up with Patrick during his break back in Singapore

In his words, "I enjoy the academic side of biomedical science and understand its importance. But working in a medical lab could be quite a solitary job with little human interaction, which can get lonely very quickly."

"It got to a point when I knew that I wanted to try something with a faster pace and more human interaction," he says.

And as luck would have it, Patrick was given the opportunity to participate in a phlebotomy training course. This program would see him posted to National University Hospital (NUH), where he was tasked with collecting blood samples from patients.

For context, phlebotomy is the process of using a needle to draw blood from a patient's vein. Medical professionals take blood samples to perform clinical or medical tests. When performed by a skilled phlebotomist, the entire process is quick and painless.

And so, despite his initial anxiety, Patrick thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He found himself getting to know Singaporeans from all walks of life.

When asked, one particular interaction stood out to him after all these years.

As he explains, "There was a younger lady who was getting treated at the oncology ward. I think she just went through a round of chemotherapy and wasn't looking too good."

"But even though she was going through a lot of pain and discomfort, she could joke with our group, telling us that maybe next time we can take her blood samples when she comes around again."

"What stuck with me was how kind and friendly she was despite her circumstances. And I think that made me realise how important it is to have a human touch when it comes to healthcare."

Besides patient interactions, Patrick often found himself touched by how friendly and helpful the other healthcare professionals were. Nurses and doctors encouraged Patrick and his compatriots to ask as many questions as possible to ensure that the students had a hands-on educational experience.

During this time, Patrick was also given the opportunity to shadow a phlebotomist as part of his training. In hindsight, he realised that this was one a defining moment in his life, and one that would influence his decision to pursue a career as a respiratory therapist.

Answering the Nation's Call as a Combat Medic

As a confessed "former introvert," it's pretty ironic that Patrick chose a career requiring him to interact with plenty of people regularly. But all that would soon change when he was called up for National Service (NS).

During his NS, Patrick was trained as a combat medic. The role would give him a taste of the fast-paced world of emergency healthcare.

Initially, he was attached to an SCDF ambulance crew that responded to emergency calls. And that's when things started to move fast.

As he tells us, "One time, we received an emergency call where the patient was having difficulty breathing, so we rushed to the scene."

"The patient was an older person who appeared to be losing consciousness. And so, because her blood oxygen levels were falling fast, the paramedics asked me to help stabilise her."

"It was quite scary, as it was my first time doing this, but my colleagues were cool and reassuring. While I was feeling nervous, I managed to apply the bag valve mask without any complications."

"Within a few minutes, her condition stabilised, and we got her back to the hospital. It was definitely a major adrenaline rush, and I felt a real sense of accomplishment."

Looking back, Patrick believes that this is one such incident that would further ignite his passion for healthcare. Besides the sense of achievement, he took satisfaction from knowing that he helped save a life.

"I guess you can say that stabilising a patient by helping them breathe woke up something deep down inside of me. I would like to think that this was maybe the beginning of something new for me."

Later on, Patrick was assigned to the SAF Medical Training Institute as a combat medic specialist. Here, he would conduct classes teaching relevant medical skills to Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen).

Interacting with so many different people brought about a change in Patrick that would reveal a more social side of him. It would also help him appreciate the value of teamwork and camaraderie and make him rethink his career choices.

Making Respiratory Therapy his First Choice

After completing his National Service, Patrick knew that he wanted something more fast-paced and exciting. And this would lead him back to his days at NUH, during his phlebotomy course and interacting with patients on the ward.

"I was looking for something a bit more hands-on and fast paced that would also let me help improve the quality of life for patients. And that was when I learnt about what respiratory therapists do."

Respiratory therapists or RTs are medical professionals trained to treat and care for patients suffering from lung-related conditions or illnesses.

As part of their duties, RTs work with people of all ages, including infants and the elderly. You can find RTs in hospitals and care homes, where they help doctors and nurses develop treatment plans for their patients.

As with any significant decision, he brought it up with his mother. Unsurprisingly, she encouraged Patrick to pursue his dreams of being a healthcare professional.

With that in mind, Patrick set out to do some research, and it was here that he came to know about the Healthcare Merit Award. It is a scholarship by MOH Holdings that is offered to students interested in obtaining a health sciences degree. Disciplines include Speech Therapy, Nursing, Diagnostic Radiography, and Respiratory Therapy.

Heading Over to the United States

Left to right: Clifton Liew, a fellow RT scholar, Ivan Lee, EdD, Head of Respiratory Care at Woodlands Health, Singapore and Patrick Caramat at the 75th American Association for Respiratory Care Congress 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana

After a successful assessment, Patrick was awarded the scholarship and is currently pursuing a degree in Respiratory Therapy at The Ohio State University. The degree program has a duration of 4 years. During the first 2 years, students will cover basic science subjects such as Math, Psychology, Chemistry, and Biology.

After that, the remainder of the program introduces students to respiratory health concepts, diseases, and the usage of specialised equipment. Students will also have the opportunity to put their skills to use during the clinical phase of the program.

While Patrick is currently one of the only three Singaporean students (the other two are also healthcare scholars) on campus, adapting to life overseas hasn't been difficult. Thanks to his friendly nature, Patrick found it easy to make friends with both local and international students.

He is also active in several multicultural student organisations who all took the effort to make Patrick feel welcome. This included a group of Malaysian students who invited him to several makan sessions.

As an avid sportsman, Patrick found himself starting a love affair with rock climbing. According to Patrick, he enjoys the physically demanding nature of the sport and the fact that he can rely only on himself to improve.

Patrick with his friends at the Rumbling Bald Mountains at North Carolina

Upon his graduation, Patrick will serve a 6-year bond with SingHealth as a qualified respiratory therapist. In the future, he hopes to make a difference in the lives of his patients by providing them with the best possible care.

Respiratory Therapists: A Vital part of Singapore's Public Healthcare System

From improving the quality of life for their patients to the sacrifices they make, respiratory therapists have a vital role to play. And now, as Singaporeans come around to the reality of living with COVID-19, these allied health professionals are just what we need to face in the future.

Interested in following in Patrick's footsteps?

MOH Holdings (MOHH) is currently offering scholarships to nurture the next generation of nursing, pharmacy and allied health professionals. These scholarships are in partnership with public healthcare institutions and allow you to study in local and overseas universities. For more details on the health science disciplines offered, check out this page