SMA LECTURE 1997, IN SEARCH OF FUTURE ROLE MODELS
IN MEDICINE - A SYNOPSIS
These values can be epitomised by Ambroise Pares oft-quoted observation: to cure sometimes, to care often but to comfort, always. It is both a science and an art and it is best learnt by apprenticeship, where the teacher is master and the pupil apprentice. Ideally the master should be the role model whom the apprentice strives to emulate.
Role models of my time
Ransome and Mekie could be described as complete doctors in their respective fields. We need such doctors, if not in fact at least in outlook to be teachers of medical students. The ideal clinical teacher should therefore have a broad based training even if he decides later to branch into a narrower field. Medical students are best initiated into medicine by generalists in order to gain the right perspective and to develop the ability to treat a patient as a whole person.
Role model characteristics
Changes in health care system
Reasons for staff exodus
No doubt the private sector could have paid them more, much more perhaps, but their important needs were taken care of by salaries which commensurate with the then cost of living. They had meaningful fringe benefits that gave them added security. In addition, teaching appointments in those days conferred on the incumbents a special status which was highly prized. They were given recognition for their teaching abilities measurable by the quality of doctors they produced. To sum it, there was work satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. I must agree conditions have changed considerably since then. New strategies must be found to retain role models both existing and potential ones.
Role model development
We need to go beyond penalties and pressures. We need to inspire a whole generation of new doctors through their role models.
CITATION OF SMA LECTURER BY A/PROF GOH LEE GAN
Dr Wong was born in Singapore in 1923. He started his career as a pharmacist trainee and learnt all that needs to be learnt on the art of compounding tablets and mixtures from the pharmacy assistants in one year. He decided that this was not going to be an interesting career and joined the Raffles College to study science. The war came and his knowledge of pharmacy was put to good use. He related to me several accounts of how he helped to treat the war wounds of several civilians with whatever medicines he had. After the war there was a call for talented young men and women by the then British colonial government to train as doctors. Dr Wong answered the call and started his medical education in 1946.
Dr Wong is a self-made man. In the period of nine months, he worked as a canteen operator for the Dutch POWs and earned enough money to pay for most of his school fees. He was also appointed part-time demonstrator while he was a medical student to teach his juniors in biochemistry in 1947-1948 and anatomy in 1948-1949. For these teaching duties he was paid $50 a month.
Upon graduation he went into general practice after serving his housemanship in the Government service. His first place of practice was in Bukit Panjang and later in Jalan Jurong Kechil next door to where Dr Cheong Pak Yean is practising today. At that time, his practice was, over large stretches of land, the only one in the Western part of Singapore.
Dr Wong believed in voluntary work. He was for a period of 4 years from 1956-1960 an honorary doctor of Nantah. He told me he saw students from 6pm to 10 pm in those days. He was also the voluntary doctor for the Lee Kuo Chuan Home for the Aged from 1964-1970 and Boys Town from 1956-1970. He was also the Corps Surgeon, St Johns Ambulance Brigade from 1958-70. He was also Vice-Chairman, Jalan Teck Whye Sec School Advisory Committee from 1968-71.
Dr Wong is a strong advocate for family medicine. He was the President of the College of Family Physicians for three terms (1973, 1974, 1975-77) and again from 1983-1985. He worked hard with a group of dedicated Council members to develop the Colleges premises and realise its aims and objectives.
We are proud of what he had set in motion. His thoughts on family medicine are encapsulated in two papers that he presented. At the Singapore Medical Associations 7th National Medical Convention , held from 17th to 24th April 1976, he presented a paper titled Family Medicine in Singapore: Past, Present and Future. He also gave the First Sreenivasan Oration of the College of Family Physicians on 19 November 1978, titled The Future Singapore General Practitioner. What he said then provided the road map for the development of family medicine in Singapore.
Today, we have built on what Dr Wong and his pioneering group started. Besides CME for family doctors, we have undergraduate teaching in family medicine and in the last ten years also vocational training in Family Medicine. Today, we have 63 doctors with the degrees of MMed(Family Medicine).
In the 1970s, Dr Wong was also actively involved with the world body of family doctors, WONCA (which stands for World Organisation of National Colleges and Academies). He was a member of the WONCA Executive from 1976-78. The good relationship between the College of Family Physicians, Singapore and the world body that Dr Wong and his colleagues initiated in the 1970s has persisted till the present day. This relationship has been helpful in nurturing the fledging family medicine movement in Singapore.
Dr Wong has also contributed many years of his time to the Public Service Commission, playing the important role of selecting the leaders for the civil service. He joined the Commission in 1970. From 1973 up to his retirement in 1994, he was the Deputy Chairman of the Public Service Commission.
For his contributions to our country, Dr Wong was awarded the Public
Service Star (BBM) in 1983, the Meritorious Service Medal (PJG) in 1989
by the Singapore Government.