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Turning Curiosity into Possibilities

To celebrate our scholars' graduation this month, we reached out to Tan Han Min – a Radiation Therapist at National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) who is also our Healthcare Merit Award recipient. Read on as he shares more about his scholarship and Radiation Therapy journey.
Tell us more about yourself

Hello! My name is Han Min. In 2018, I received the Healthcare Merit Award (HMA) by MOH Holdings (MOHH) to pursue Radiation Therapy (RT) at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). I have also graduated in 2022 to be a Radiation Therapist. 

Han Min receiving the Healthcare Merit Award at the Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony back in 2018 and SIT Graduation in 2022. 

Why did you choose Radiation Therapy?

I first heard about RT from a classmate at Singapore Polytechnic who was in the inaugural batch of SIT RT students (fun fact: she was also an MOHH scholar!) This piqued my interest because I didn't know much about the disciplines then.

After completing my Polytechnic studies, I served my National Service as a Combat Medic and I got to experience what it meant to be in healthcare. I then did extensive research to gain a deeper understanding of the various allied health disciplines. RT stood out for me because it is a good mix of meaningful work with opportunities to branch out into oncology research. 

What is the difference between the Diagnostic Radiography (DR) and Radiation Therapy discipline? This is a popular question. Can you shed some light on this?

While both disciplines involve the use of ionising radiation, RT uses high-dose radiation to aid in our ultimate goal of providing precise treatment to patients with cancer.  DR on the other hand, uses radiation at lower doses for imaging to aid in cancer diagnosis. RT specialises in radiotherapy treatment and oncology while DR specialises in X-ray and modality imaging. Patients often visit our DR colleagues for a proper cancer diagnosis before coming to our department for treatment.

Due to the nature of our jobs, Radiation Therapists usually see the same patients throughout their radiotherapy treatment! This is in contrast with our DR counterparts who don't perform imaging for the same patients throughout their treatment journey. 

Why did you choose to take up MOHH's Healthcare Merit Award (HMA) and how is your scholarship experience so far?

I chose the HMA because it provided an excellent opportunity for me to meet like-minded individuals, even before starting my course! It also provided me with financial stability and this allowed me to focus on my studies without having to worry about allowances and school fees. The events hosted by MOHH such as the Healthcare Scholarship Induction Camp and Healthcare Orientation Program is a key highlight of my scholarship experience thus far. The events were attended by scholars from various healthcare disciplines and schools, both local and overseas-based, which allowed me to network and understand different perspectives. I am still in contact with many of the scholars from my batch!

Han Min (top left) taking a celebratory photo with his fellow scholars after the Healthcare Scholarships Award Ceremony in 2018 

What is one interesting thing about what you've learnt that you'd like to share with our readers?

Did you know that Radiation Therapists receive almost no additional radiation dose in the course of their work? Some students may be worried that Radiation Therapists are exposed to the same amount of radiation as our patients. This is not the case and there are various safety guidelines in place. Each student and staff are issued with a Thermo-Luminescent Dosimeter (TLD) which measures the radiation we receive while we are at work. This TLD is also checked by the National Environmental Agency (NEA) every few months to ensure that the radiation we are exposed to at the workplace remains within the stipulated guidelines.

Han Min (top left) at a practical session at National Cancer Centre Singapore 

We heard that you just started working at National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) a month ago. Were there any challenges and how did you overcome it?

Although I just started work last month, I have been to NCCS many times during my studies for clinical placements and it was like returning to a familiar workplace. Initially, it was quite demanding but the work has been extremely fulfilling and exciting!

Transitioning from a student to a full-fledged Radiation Therapist meant that I had significantly more responsibilities such as making decisions for my patients' therapies. The additional responsibilities can be difficult at times but as I got used to the rhythm and pace, I found that I was able to overcome them. My seniors were extremely supportive and were always willing to teach me. I've never been hesitant to approach them when in doubt.

Han Min in the Radiation Therapy room with a Linear Accelerator (Linac) 

Share with us what keeps you going at work.

I enjoy conversing with my patients before and after their treatment. We meet people from all walks of life so it's interesting to hear their different stories. The most enjoyable aspect of my job is when a patient completes his or her treatment and I walk them out of the treatment room for the last time. I feel that I've fulfilled my role as a Radiation Therapist. 

What would to you say to students who aspire to join the healthcare sector?

Joining the healthcare sector can be very fulfilling but challenging at times! Have a good look at what each allied health course offers and understand their job scopes, to make an informed decision.

The learning curve may be steep at the start but you'll find friends along the way who will help you through the tough times. Enjoy the journey because it's not always about the destination. You will be studying with many of your future colleagues, so go make some friends!

Han Min (middle left) on a visit to Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital for our Professional Practice Placement

One favorite quote that you live by

"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." 

-Oscar Wilde