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Different Strokes of Life

It is often noted that life imitates art. Chinese calligraphy, which has over a thousand years of history, inspires avid practitioners with its philosophies of life. Indeed, the guiding principles of Chinese calligraphy have influenced and shaped the personal and professional life of Assoc Prof Tan Bien Keem, Head of Department of Plastic Surgery in Singapore General Hospital.

BK (as he is often known), is kept occupied by his work in Plastic Surgery. Yet, he still finds time to dabble in art. He says, “Slow down and reflect on what counts in life. Once you enjoy a sense of peace, everything in life will fall into place.”

Drawn from the words of Sun Simiao, who was one of the most famed court physicians during the Tang Dynasty, the attributes of doctors must include meticulousness, courage, wisdom and moral uprightness. Although expounded more than a millennium ago, these same qualities are being instilled in Residents today, says BK. He explains, “One only has to look a little deeper to understand the link between Chinese philosophy and conduct. This is one of the ways we can define and fulfil our calling.”

BK makes frequent mention of the words ‘synergy’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘cooperation’. To succeed, the medical team must develop a collective instinct. Harmony leads to smooth surgery and a favourable outcome for the patient.

To be a good doctor, BK’s advice is to not lose track of your goals and never forget to help others. “We are created by intelligent design and having a great respect for life is the first step towards succeeding as a Clinician,” he says.

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