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"Engaging Our Younger Doctors - The SMA MO Committee"

In this month’s issue of SMA News, we have 2 articles that focus on the younger members of our profession – the House Officers (HO). One is on the HOs’ Seminar, which has since its inception been an annual "not-to-be missed" event for fresh medical school graduates. The other is from a HO recounting his experience after completing what is arguably the toughest year of his medical career.

The HOs’ Seminar is but one of many activities organised by the Medical Officers’ (MO) Committee every year. The original intention was to actively engage our young doctors into our profession and to ease the difficult transition from being medical students to full-fledged HOs. The seminar usually involves advice and guidance by senior doctors as well as sharing of experience by younger doctors who have just completed their HO year. The feedback by participants has been extremely positive and therefore the HOs’ Seminar has been made into an annual SMA event.

The MO Committee is one of the most active committees in the SMA. In addition to organising activities such as the HOs’ Seminar, the MO Committee conducts regular surveys to gather feedback and channel ideas and suggestions to the relevant authorities, such as the Ministry of Health. In turn, MOH has also sought the MO Committee’s views on certain proposed policies. This continuous communication loop serves to refine policies that directly affect the younger doctors. There are many examples whereby ground feedback has directly or indirectly influenced changes. The revision of hospital on-call allowance is an obvious example. Many MOs may remember not too long ago when the allowance was $40 per night of hard work.

There are other pressing issues that are still of concern to the younger doctors. The postgraduate training of MOs and Registrars is one such concern. Are our younger doctors getting sufficient training? One of the 3 main concerns voiced by MOs in our SMA survey was the inadequacy of training they were receiving. The formation of the Specialist Accreditation Board and a set of guidelines detailing structured teaching and training requirements is an important milestone for postgraduate medical training in Singapore. However, questions on the exact implementation of the training system remain, especially at the ground level. The feeling is that whilst the overall training programme has improved over the years, it is still erratic and varies between hospitals, specialties and departments. Clearly, there must be room for improvement.

Our members must give their full support to the MO Committee in its endeavors to meet the needs of young doctors. The MO Committee can only survive if there is continuous participation from the young doctors, and continuous support and encouragement from the more senior doctors. The SMA and MO Committee welcome your ideas and suggestions. K