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Whether it's the long hours they put in or the burden of responsibility, a doctor's life calls for tremendous sacrifice and dedication.
All of this is why medicine attracts extraordinary and compassionate individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds. Despite their differences, doctors and healthcare professionals are united by a common goal: to serve humanity.
We caught up with two of our PSC Medicine scholars; Dr. Tan Yu Bin and Dr. Thaddaeus Tan Jun Kiat, on their experiences as doctors and scholars.
For Thaddaeus, he knew that a career in medicine was the right choice for him all along.
As he puts it, "I've always wanted to become a doctor because I enjoyed learning about science and wanted a career that would allow me to use science to save lives and help people. But my interest in public service was sparked during my days in medical school."
"I enjoyed learning about how Singapore's healthcare system works, how its policies come into play and the roles that medical professionals perform. You could say that this inspired me to seek out ways to give back to society through my work which led me to the PSC Medicine Scholarship."
Thaddaeus first learnt about the
PSC Medicine Scholarship from his lecturers at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. Recognising that the scholarship was an excellent way for him to achieve his goals, Thaddaeus set out to apply for it during his fourth year of medical school.
To qualify for the scholarship, Thaddaeus would have to submit an essay, pass 3 different interviews, including a psychometric test.
"The second step was particularly daunting as I had to sit down for a panel interview with 8 to 12 different medical experts. During this stage, I had to answer questions on a variety of topics which gauged our understanding of current affairs and policy making."
After a successful application process, Thaddaeus was awarded the
PSC Medicine Scholarship. This scholarship is designed to develop and nurture Medicine scholars for leadership roles within the Ministry of Health (MOH), public healthcare clusters and institutions. Upon graduation, all scholars start off as house officers which is a period of training that aims to equip all new medical doctors with the basic skills of clinical practice. The training will typically last for a year before the house officers
progress to take on the specialist or non-specialist route.
Upon his graduation and completion of housemanship, Thaddaeus applied for the
SingHealth Residency General Surgery Programme. This was Thaddaeus's long-time ambition given his interest in anatomy and physiology
For context, anatomy studies the internal and external structures of the body and their physical relationships, whereas physiology refers to the study of the functions of those structures. In fact, his passion for anatomy and physiology led to Thaddaeus being awarded the
Oliveiro Memorial Medal for his good performance in the subject.
After completing various postings in the public hospitals, Thaddaeus re-enlisted to serve out the remainder of his National Service (NS). During his NS period, Thaddaeus earned various awards like the Sword of Merit and a Letter of Appreciation from the Commander of the SAF Medical Training Institute (SMTI) for his work on the inaugural Service Fit Program which tailored training of non-combat fit cadets towards developing skills that would empower them to serve in vocations unique to their scope of ability.
Taking on a Posting with MOH
As a recipient of the PSC Medicine Scholarship, Thaddaeus was given the opportunity to participate in various attachments with MOH. Eager to learn more about public policy and its role in healthcare, Thaddaeus accepted a posting as a Medical Officer with MOH's Technology Evaluation and Implementation Unit.
Here, he worked with various ministries and stakeholders across the local healthcare landscape to examine the efficacy of Antigen Rapid Test (ART) kits used to detect COVID positive patients. Given the danger COVID-19 posed to the public then, the work of his unit helped medical professionals get faster, more accurate COVID test results to increase operational efficiency.
During the posting, Thaddaeus also was part of the MOH National Wellness Committee for Junior Doctors (NWC-JD).
"My time on the NWC-JD allowed me to actively participate in national-level policy discussions which was an eye-opening experience. Besides directly contributing to structural reforms that would potentially improve the working conditions of junior doctors, I also learnt the importance of ensuring that we have a sustainable healthcare system. To do so, we need to safeguard the mental and emotional health of our medical professionals and ease their burden."
Serving Singapore as a General Surgeon
Life in the OT. As a resident, Thaddaeus is tasked with performing basic surgical procedures and assisting surgical consultants with complex intra-abdominal surgery.
While Thaddaeus enjoyed his policy stint at MOH, he wanted to give back to Singapore on a more personal level. This led him back to his original ambition of becoming a general surgeon.
"General surgeons are often required to perform a variety of challenging and often life-saving procedures. Besides the thrill from the mental challenges involved, surgeons are given the opportunity to effect change in their patients' lives in a unique manner that is deeply rewarding. By specialising in this area, I believe I can better serve my fellow Singaporeans and make a difference in each patient's life through my work."
Scientific research is an important component of surgical training. Pictured here is Thaddaeus (far right) with his colleagues from National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) presenting a paper at ISSPP 2022 in Los Angeles.
Currently, Thaddaeus is a surgical resident with SingHealth. As part of his training, Thaddaeus performs clinical work by treating patients and assisting in complex procedures in the operating theatre, and also collaborating with other medical professionals in multidisciplinary teams to treat surgical patients.
Unlike Thaddaeus, Dr. Tan Yu Bin's entry into the world of medicine wasn't so direct.
He first graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with a first-class honours degree in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. During that time, Yu Bin took on an engineering internship where he realised that engineering was not the right career for him.
While Yu Bin enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of engineering, the lack of human interaction and desk-bound nature of his work bothered him. He wanted a career with more meaning. So, he set out for a career that would allow him to work closely with people and even lend them a helping hand. All of which led him to conclude that medicine was what he was looking for all along.
After his research, Yu Bin realised that the best path to a medical degree was via the
Duke-NUS Medical School.
Yu Bin presenting a poster at ASCO, San Francisco
At Duke-NUS, Yu Bin enjoyed learning about medicine and how it requires a good deal of problem-solving skills. As a naturally curious individual, he was also eager to learn how government policies affected the medical care provided to Singaporeans as a whole.
During the course of his study, Yu Bin came to know about the PSC Medicine Scholarship during his third year of studies. What attracted him most was how the scholarship opened doors to leadership roles within the MOH along with public healthcare clusters and institutions.
He shares, "I was looking forward to the networking opportunities the scholarship provides. Plus, I also liked how scholars have the flexibility to choose between being a medical professional and taking on an administrative role."
Making a Difference in Singapore, One Step at a Time
Since being awarded the scholarship, Yu Bin has made the most out of the various opportunities for professional development. One of which was an overseas recruitment trip to England and Ireland.
Here, he met with medical students and doctors from Singapore who were residing there and introduced them to the various career opportunities available back home.
"Having worked in the public healthcare system for more than 4 years, I understood the challenges that we face as a system and my overseas exposure helped me understand why some of our fellow Singaporeans chose to remain overseas to practise Medicine."
This has encouraged Yu Bin to examine current policies and how he can further encourage Singaporeans residing overseas to return home and contribute to the nation. It is also one of the reasons why he is grateful for the PSC Medicine Scholarship as it puts him in a position where he can work to enact change.
Currently, Yu Bin is a Senior Resident with SingHealth where he is training to become a specialist in Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Changi General Hospital. Gastroenterology & Hepatology is a subspecialty of internal medicine which focuses on disorders and diseases that affect the digestive system, liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas.
Yu Bin (first row, middle) and his colleagues celebrating his birthday in the office
"I enjoy solving all kinds of problems which is what drew me to the Gastroenterology & Hepatology specialty. It requires you to collect information from the patient, study their symptoms, and perform tests to determine what is wrong. And once you've come to a conclusion, you can treat the patient and help them recover."
When asked about his long-term plans, Yu Bin has this to say, "I want to improve my professional skills and knowledge and also build up my experience in medicine. After that, I may consider moving into a policy-related role where I can contribute to our national health policy. Alternatively, I may also consider returning to Duke-NUS and impart my knowledge to a new generation of Medicine students."
Advice for Those Looking to Pursue a Career in Medicine
According to both Thaddaeus and Yu Bin, "There are many misconceptions surrounding the PSC Medicine Scholarship, and this puts off many applicants. What they should know is that Medicine scholars have total freedom when it comes to choosing their specialities, which means that you're free to chart out your career."
"Additionally, PSC Medicine scholars are given opportunities to participate in curated developmental programmes to gain deeper insights into the public healthcare sector. These include the healthcare induction camp, attachments at MOH, MOH Holdings and even the public healthcare institutions. Besides that, there are also networking events with key healthcare leaders alongside PSC's own development programmes."
While MOH offers policy-related roles, you can opt to pursue clinical roles in the specialist or non-specialist tracks in the various healthcare clusters and institutions based on your interests and strengths."
For those looking to pursue medicine and follow in Thaddaeus' and Yu Bin's footsteps, they have this to say, "Besides having great academic results, you must also have the passion to serve and create positive change in the lives of others. That's what really matters. You have to ask yourself whether you're willing to go the distance and take the time out to serve. If you have that strength in you, then you should definitely go all the way."
Keen to pursue the PSC Medicine/Dentistry Scholarship? For more details, check out