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SMA Editorial Board 

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What motivated us to be doctors? The answer is a complex and yet simple one. The circumstances may vary but to the majority, if not to all, the fundamental factor is the inspiration to do something useful with our lives. Those who lived before us and showed the way of the healing art inspire us. We therefore submit ourselves to years of study, apprenticeship and join the fraternity of healers.

Our parents, our friends and society applaud us in this endeavour. Reflect on the many times that your patients have mentioned fondly of you as having been instrumental in fending off illness, suffering and disability from their lives: to be there, in time. This is the meaning of being doctors.

What about those who do not see patients? We have our medical administrators, research scientists and even medical enterpreneurs. They too should be counted in the fraternity of healers. The difference is that, unlike the practitioner who makes a decision for individuals, or at most a small group of people, the administrators make decisions that affect the lot of many. Hence, they must make good decisions. Medicine is more than balancing the books or getting a good bottom line. It must be for the greater good of mankind and society. So long as that is remembered, things are likely to be all right.

Doctors are also teachers. They provide knowledge and guidance for the many that they meet in their professional life. These include patients, medical students, postgraduate doctors and colleagues. It is important that each of us remember to be good enough role models.

Dr Wong Heck Sing spoke of the doctors that inspired him, both from days of yore and those in his life and times, at this year’s SMA Lecture. In his lecture he asked for attention to be paid to nurture role models for future generations of doctors. We should take heed of his exhortation.

In this issue, we have asked several University dons and medical leaders to comment on Dr Wong’s SMA Lecture. The message is clear. Medicine is more than a trade, it is a profession. And a profession is an occupation in which “the amount of financial returns is not the only measure of success”. Success is measured by the number of people to whom each of us, directly or indirectly are able to brighten their lives because we are doctors.