By Epoch Times Staff
After finishing junior college, Ms Tan Wen Qi didn’t take a straight path to becoming a doctor.
She went on to obtain her engineering degree at the National University of Singapore, graduating in 2011. But despite receiving a first-class honours in biomedical engineering, she realised what she really wanted was to work more closely with people.
“During my third year summer vacation, I worked in the Chronobiology and Sleep Laboratory at Duke-NUS, where we studied the effects of sleep-deprivation on health in young men. It was a refreshing and eye-opening experience for me, as I was studying the biology of healthy individuals first-hand, instead of working with test-tubes on a bench. I realised that I wanted to work more closely with people, doctors and patients, and to be able to observe and have a more direct impact on people’s health,” says Dr Tan.
After four years, she is one step closer to her dream. Recently, the 27-year-old graduated with a Doctor of Medicine (MD). She was one of 49 students to collect their MD degrees at this year’s Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School graduation ceremony, which also saw the school’s first batch of eight PhD holders graduate in integrated biology and medicine.
In the interview with Dr Tan, Epoch Times finds out the opportunities Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School offers as well as her insightful training.
She emphasises, “We are often told that medicine is an art, not a science, and that is incredibly true. Medicine is a lifelong journey of learning that doesn’t stop after medical school.”
The petite Dr Tan also shares with us her views regarding the illicit organ harvesting trade, particularly in China.
“I have met a few patients over the past few years who have gone to China for kidney transplants—but most people don’t know where China’s large supply of organs comes from,” she discloses.
What opportunities does Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School offer?
It offers the opportunity to study medicine, particularly for those who didn’t have the chance to pursue undergraduate medicine. My classmates come from a variety of backgrounds—science, engineering, even economics, art history, and anthropology. They’ve also shown that you don’t necessarily need a science background to do extremely well in medical school.
Duke-NUS also has a research year where we are engaged in a research project with a mentor. We can choose to do it in clinical or basic science. I really appreciated the experience and extensive support I received from my mentors, statisticians and others who were part of the school faculty. They were instrumental in exposing me to clinical research and the option of becoming a clinician scientist.
Is medicine a rewarding experience? Why?
It is a rewarding and extremely humbling experience. We are given the privilege of examining and treating patients, and we deal with something so important to them—their health and their lives. Many patients are truly inspiring with their strength in the face of adversity, especially the paediatric patients. Despite all the hardship they experience in their health and personal lives, they remain real troopers. I have learnt a great deal from them!
What are the moral ethics for doctors?
There are four basic principles:
1. Respect for autonomy: respecting the patients’ right to choose or refuse treatment
2. Beneficence: doing what is best for the patient
3. Non-maleficence: “do no harm” to the patient
4. Justice: fairness and equality in the distribution of health resources
Tell us about your training in local hospitals. Share with us your experiences, and some memorable lessons?
I had most of my training at Singapore General Hospital, one of Singapore’s busiest tertiary hospitals, and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. I was fortunate to have very good mentors at these hospitals who taught me a lot. The patients are also my teachers; without them, I would not have the medical knowledge and experience I know now.
One of my most memorable lessons was following an elderly patient for her follow-up appointment with her cardiologist. She patiently and amicably spent three hours in tests and waiting before she could see the doctor. It made me appreciate all the waiting that a patient has to go through for a 10-minute consultation. At the same time, I’ve also experienced first-hand how hectic the clinics are, where doctors are pressured to see so many patients in a limited time. Time-management and tolerance on both sides become very critical things to have!
What do you think is the most pressing issue in healthcare today?
With Singaporeans living longer, we are already facing a greying population and an increasing burden from chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. The vast majority of patients who are admitted to hospitals have at least one of these conditions, and these conditions more often than not require lifelong management. Our healthcare system is under pressure to cope with the influx of these patients.
One of our professors, A/Prof Lee Kheng Hock, recently wrote a comprehensive article for Today (“Reinventing Singapore’s GPs”, 12 June 2015) that succinctly highlights the problem and how we can improve our healthcare system to cope with the impending demands. General practitioners and especially allied health workers like nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and medical social workers are vital to caring for our ageing population in the community.
There have been reports of people going overseas for organ transplants, particularly to China. What are your thoughts?
It is unsurprising that people are going to China for organ transplants. The average waiting period for a kidney in Singapore is nine years. Conversely, the waiting period in China for organs is within weeks, and over 10,000 organs are transplanted per year. I have met a few patients over the past few years who have gone to China for kidney transplants.
But many don’t know where China’s large supply of organs comes from. Unfortunately, these organs are harvested from prisoners and prisoners of conscience, particularly Falun Gong practitioners, Uighur Muslims, Tibetans, and House Christians. These innocent people are detained for years in prisons across China, where they are tested and matched to recipients, and killed to fuel the organ trade.
The evidence from global investigations has been so serious that the United Nations Special Rapporteurs and UN Committee for Torture have repeatedly called attention to the matter, and governments in Europe, North America, and Asia have passed legislations against China’s organ harvesting practice.
If there is greater awareness of what is happening in China, I believe people will stop going there for organ transplants. It will discourage the organ harvesting trade, and save thousands of innocent lives in China.
For more information on organ harvesting in China, please visit http://stoporganharvesting.org