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President Forum

Chicken Soup For The Doctor's Soul


For your New Year resolutions, why not consider the following?

Be a Five Star Doctor

This idea came from Dr Charles Boelen from the World Health Organisation (WHO). This model has been highlighted in this newsletter more than once, the last was by our Director of Medical Services, Dr Chen Ai Ju in her address at the 9th SGH Annual Scientific Meeting on medical training(1). A five star doctor is the doctor who aspires to be a care provider, decision maker, communicator, community leader as well as a manager of healthcare resources. Dr Chen asked, "Can we all aspire and work to become five star doctors?"


Be positive about labour

Professor Ian McWhinney, a doyen of Family Medicine from London, Ontario believed that there are three kinds of human activity - action, work and labour(2). "Action, the highest of human activities, is self-expression; it has no product to which it is secondary; the activity is good in its own right. Work has an end or product, but still has an element of self-expression in that the worker - a craftsman or artist can put something of himself or herself into the product. In labour, man has the least opportunity for self expression and he produces nothing that is his own." It is easy to derive satisfaction from action and work but the same cannot be said of labour.

Some aspects of doctoring may be labour: mundane and routine. However, to patients their doctors’ labour has great meaning. They look to their doctors for cure and relief of their suffering. McWhinney quoted Susanne Langer on how we can find meaning in labour. "Men who follow the sea have often a deep love for that hard life… Any man who loves his calling loves it for more than its use; he loves it because it seems to have ‘meaning’". Can meaning transcend money as the reward for our labour? Can we put our soul into labour?


Introduce balance and integration into your practice and continuing professional education

This has been addressed as last month’s editorial of the SMJ titled "The training of future doctors"(3). There is a need to balance the supply-side (what the doctors want) versus the demand-side (what the public wants) for medical education and healthcare provision, and to integrate the vertical, the horizontal and the non-medical aspects of healthcare.


Help prevent the top three causes of death _ cancer, heart disease and stroke

For a start, do your patients know that: (1) the most effective strategy for cancer prevention is to stop smoking; (2) 50% - 60% of deaths due to coronary heart diseases are related to just seven factors: smoking, physical inactivity, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol and excess body weight; and (3) reducing salt intake is the cheapest and most effective way of preventing strokes(4) ?


Implement some of the items on the 1998 Health Agenda of WHO

These are: (1) alleviation of poverty, (2) fighting communicable diseases, (3) fighting chronic non-communicable diseases, (4) safeguarding the gains in health through international networking for health, (5) enhancing health potential by preventing and reducing premature mortality, morbidity and disability and, (6) encouraging healthy aging(5). There are many things that we may be able to do, however little, for our patients and for others through collaborative efforts professionally with colleagues, medical bodies and academic institutions around the world.

These could be the ingredients for the chicken soup for the doctor’s soul in 1999.



1 Chen AJ. Medical Training. SMA News May 1998 N1/7

2 McWhinney I. A Textbook of Family Medicine. Oxford University Press, 2nd edition 1997:20-22.

3 Goh LG and Cheong PY. The Training of Future Doctors. Sing Med J 1998, 39(12):524-526

4 Wolf. Lewis A Connor Lecture. Circulation 1993; 88:5 Part 1:2477

5 WHO. The World Health Report 1998. Life in the 21st century A vision for all. Geneva:WHO, 1998. K