Alumni Interview: Dr Wong Tien Hua

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1994
Dr Wong Tien Hua

About yourself

A brief description of your career; current occupation, title, and company.

I am a family physician and have been practicing in my GP clinic in Sengkang since 2002. I graduated from Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore in 1993.

I am currently the President of the Singapore Medical Association. The SMA is the voluntary professional body that represents the majority of doctors in Singapore. I have been serving as a Council Member of the SMA since June 2004, and served in various SMA committees. I organized and spoke at numerous lectures and events both locally and overseas. I have also been invited to speak in professional forums and act as panel moderator. I have represented Singapore in regional healthcare meetings and international forums such as those hosted by the World Medical Association.

At the College of Family Physicians I teach post graduate diploma students, and was previously involved in content delivery at their Institute. I also teach as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Family Medicine at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School

I attended ACJS, went on to ACS Secondary School for O levels, and then on to ACJC to do my A levels.

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

Mostly professional related work, which keeps me fully occupied.


Personal/Career choice

What led you to be a doctor?

I did not come from a family of doctors – my parents were lecturers in the National University of Singapore. I studied in the Science Stream and had an interest in Biological sciences. I had no aptitude for physics or mathematics in school. I was good with people and had an interest in talking and listening to others and could empathize with their problems. As a doctor I thought I could do more to help. Role models are important during the formative years and I looked up to my elder brother. He applied and got in to NUS Medicine and that had a large impression on me to follow his footsteps.

Tell us about your time as a doctor. How did your job compare with your initial expectations?

The job as a doctor is nothing like what I expected and continues to inspire and surprise me.

The term “doctor” is actually a very broad description of a profession that is extremely diverse, from the very subspecialized cardiologist looking at the intricacies of the heart, to the generalized work of the family physician that has no idea what the next patient walking in will present with.

Not many ACSians, at eighteen, have in mind a definite career path they would like to pursue. How set were you on your career when you were still in ACS?

In those days in ACS, life was a little more carefree and there was less pressure to think about one’s career, which seemed so distant. We focussed on our studies, formed good friendships, and tried to discover our interests and talents. In that sense I was pretty open to career opportunities depending on where my interests took me.

If you hadn’t pursued medicine, what would you have pursued instead?

I wanted to be an architect because I liked to draw and sketch, I had a good sense of form and space. After my A levels, I had a 2 week attachment to a large architecture firm and loved my time there. Unfortunately the architects convinced me not to do architecture! The same thing could have happened if I had spent 2 weeks in a hospital.


Challenges

What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced in your line of work?

As a doctor, the professional life is never dull as there is something to learn every day. Being able to deal with uncertainty is challenging for a doctor because no 2 patients are ever alike and whatever we do can never be 100% certain. This is a burden that we have to deal with but it gets a bit better with experience, constant learning, and self-reflection.

As a GP, I had to start my own practice in the private sector and take business risk, this was very challenging because medical school had not prepared me for starting a business. I had to learn on the job in the school of hard knocks.

What motivates you in your work? How do you keep yourself motivated in your profession?

 You have to be motivated to do the best for your patients. If you look at it that way, it sounds easy and straightforward but it takes effort.

What are some of the challenges facing young people aspiring to study medicine? What advice would you give them?

Medicine is a great career that spans a lifetime. Getting into medical school may seem like the immediate goal but that is only the start. Even after graduation there will be more courses, more studies and more exams. Those aspiring to become doctors must go in for the right reasons to sustain them. Medicine is not a career to make money or for personal gain, but a calling to serve society.

So be prepared for the long haul, pace yourself and keep your core beliefs in focus all the time.


ACSians in the workplace

Are there many ACSians in your area of work? Are there any distinctive qualities that may be observed of ACSians in said area of work?

There are many doctors from ACS. I think the quality of the ACSian is his ability to connect with people from all walks of life, show empathy for those in need, and always ready to lend a helping hand.

 How has an ACS education prepared you for your current occupation?

The friends I made in ACS are with me till this day. Good friends help us during the ups and downs in our working career. ACS provided a strong Christian foundation that reminds us to turn to God for strength when we face difficulties in life.

Do you have any advice for ACSians who would like to pursue medicine? 

School is not only about preparing you for your future career. School is about self-discovery where you learn about your own strengths and weaknesses, what you love to do and what you hate to do, and even whether you talk too much or talk too little.

So by all means go for activities that interest you, instead of participating in something that is deemed “useful”. If you like what you do, you will excel.

Possess good people skills, good EQ, and learn to be polite and humble.

Learn to be a good listener.

These are powerful qualities that will stand in good stead. Good behaviour is a habit that needs to be inculcated early.


Time in ACS

What do you remember best of your days in ACS? 

I was in the Military Band in Sec School; I played pretty badly but I developed an interest in concerts and classical music, something that I appreciate to this day.

In ACJC I was in the Audiovisual club, and we used to film on VHS tape cameras. I have kept up this interest and it has lasted till today where I love photography and video production. Technology has advanced so much that we are able to upload studio quality film onto YouTube to share with friends, something that was unimaginable in my time.

Do you have a favourite memory of your time in ACS?

Paying 40 cents for a plate of fried kuay teow with egg in the old tuck shop, and gobbling it up 5 mins before the end of recess bell, because I had spent too much time playing with friends during the first 25 mins of that precious time.

What was the one most important lesson you learnt from your time in school?

Your friends – make them in your time in school and they last a lifetime.

If you could change one thing about your time in ACS, what would it be?

My Body mass index in Primary 5.


Defining ACS

What makes an ACSian?

Christian values, respect for teachers and a humble and sincere heart.

Personal

What’s your personal motto?

Resilience, Reliability, Delayed gratification because the Best is Yet to Be 

What qualities do you most admire in others?

Courage, creativity and imagination

What do you appreciate most in friends?

Dependability. When I need you, will you be there for me?

What would you consider your greatest achievement?

How can one have a greatest achievement when the Best is Yet to Be? This is why we should not take pleasure in self-glorification.


Future

If you could give your eighteen-year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Live in the real world, you only have the present moment. Get off the phone, the internet, and computer games. Make eye contact with the people you speak to.

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