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Choosing Your PGY1 – The Path to Residency

Dr Daryl Lo, a SingHealth Postgraduate Year 1 (PGY1) Alumnus, and currently a Year One Internal Medicine Resident, shares his PGY1 experience with us, and offers some tips on how to get matched to your preferred programme in Residency.

What made you apply for the PGY1 Programme at SingHealth?

As a medical student, I had a great experience doing my rotations in SingHealth and was inspired by both senior Clinicians and junior doctors who were very willing to mentor and guide me. Thereafter, SingHealth became an institute which I wanted to further my career in, leading me to apply for the SingHealth PGY1 Programme so as to have the opportunity to not only enrich my training experience across the various hospitals and institutions in the cluster, but also to be able to experience the working environment and culture at SingHealth as a practicing doctor.

Tell us about your learning experience in the SingHealth PGY1 Programme.

Several things make SingHealth's programme stand out from the others: a very strong teaching culture, a good support system, and the close camaraderie. Seniors would always discuss clinical cases with us – Residents - and attend to our questions despite their busy schedules. They are also always ready to sit down with us to review our training progress and provide feedback on areas of strength and weaknesses.

Additionally, when I first started out as a House Officer (HO), apart from being taught by senior doctors, I also received much guidance from more experienced peers and medical officers, who have rich experience with the system and were willing to journey with me. The roles were reversed when I was given the opportunity towards the end of my PGY1 training to help guide other house officers who had just joined the Singapore healthcare system. This pay-it-forward philosophy is something that underpins the SingHealth learning culture and creates a great environment for knowledge building within the cluster.


Moreover, SingHealth undoubtedly has a heavy caseload, but with this comes a wide case-mix and hands-on learning, that paves the way for gathering experience and training – both of which are crucial in building up professional competency. Coupling this with the strong support network of senior Faculty, Medical Officers and peers, a PGY1 year at SingHealth is both enjoyable and helpful in developing a good clinical foundation.

Personally, I'll always remember the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork that is present as we work for our patients, as well as the constant willingness of seniors to mentor and guide us along the way.


Share with us a challenging situation at work, and how you overcame it.

During my third month as a HO, my team was treating an elderly patient with an unclear diagnosis. The patient also had complex medical issues and difficulty communicating. The entire team, from the consultant to medical students, came together to review his case. Every opinion within the team was considered, with juniors like us having the chance to formulate plans under the guidance and leadership of the team seniors, allowing the team to eventually elicit the underlying diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment, with a good outcome for the patient at the end. From this incident, I saw that no matter how difficult the case, we can always provide the appropriate care for our patients as long as we seek solutions together as a team.

Any advice for graduating medical students who are going into PGY1?

My experience in SingHealth PGY1 helped me decide if I would be a good fit for Residency. Rotating through the different specialties in SingHealth has enabled me to understand the organisation's work culture as well, and decide on the institution where I would like to pursue my medical career.

My advice to medical students is this – consider what your goals are when deciding on your selection of PGY1 postings; are your goals to experience different working environments and systems, or do you already have a particular future career path in mind? This decision may affect where you might prefer to train during PGY1.

Ultimately, the most important thing in PGY1 training is to develop a good clinical foundation. If you want to pursue a Residency programme after PGY1, it would be useful to build a relationship with the department and Faculty of your intended programme, by choosing to work with that department during PGY1. The experience will help you to get a feel of the working culture in that department and thereby, give you an idea of whether training in that specific department would be a good fit for you and vice-versa.

Applying for Residency is a big decision, and there is no need to rush to decide on a particular speciality or sponsoring institution! Be flexible and open-minded, make the most of your PGY1 postings to gain experience and learn, and always remember that at the end of the day, it's our patients who are at the heart of all we do!