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Do What You Love, and Love What You Do

​Follow your passion, they say. But how does one sustain one's passion in Medicine after graduating from medical school?

We take five with Dr Ku Chee Wai, SingHealth Obstetrics and Gynaecology Residency Alumnus and current Associate Consultant, Department of Reproductive Medicine, KKH, on how he keeps his passion for Medicine burning with a purpose in research and education.


Dr Ku with his family

How did you discover your passion for research and education?

The old cliché of “do what you love, and love what you do” holds true for me. In fact, it sums up a large part of my life as my passion for research was first ignited while I was pursuing my undergraduate studies and working on translational research in Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) School of Biological Sciences.

It was then, I realised that I would very much prefer to do clinical research as it has a more direct and immediate impact on patients instead.

Teaching is another passion of mine, which I happened to discover during my stint as an educator at my alma mater – Victoria Junior College (VJC) and Duke-NUS Medical School. I find great joy in sharing knowledge and by doing so, I am constantly challenged to think of better ways to explain a concept to my students rather than just reading it off a textbook – a win-win situation for my students and me!

  1. What was the biggest challenge you faced in your research and education journey?

Time, or the lack thereof, was and still is probably the biggest challenge. We have 24 hours a day but so many commitments to attend to and hence, something has to give. In this case, it means shelving out my free time to continue my research or education commitments outside of office hours. Fortunately, I enjoy what I am doing and so, it’s never really ‘work’ for the most part.

It also helped that I have been extremely blessed to meet inspiring mentors, superiors, colleagues and even helpful medical and non-medical students throughout my medical and research journey, whom I can always turn to for encouragement and help whenever I needed them.

Dr Ku (first from right) with his fellow HELMS colleagues

  1. What keeps you going in Medicine?

To make a direct and positive impact on my patients' lives.

Which is why I am motivated and passionate in research projects that have a direct impact on patient care such as the Healthy Early Life Moments in Singapore (HELMS) – a digital lifestyle intervention programme that aims to improve the metabolic and mental health of overweight and obese women throughout the life-course from preconception to postpartum periods. This includes a paradigm shift in the approach to maternal-child health (MCH), from a reactive to a more proactive one, which my team and I were able to publish our findings in a journal titled “Golden Thread Approach to MCH in Singapore”.

I am equally passionate in wanting to improve the standard of care for women with early pregnancy complications such as threatened miscarriages by providing better triaging, anticipatory guidance and medication management etc., resulting in an implementation of a new model of care to triage the risk of women with threatened miscarriages in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) Urgent O&G Centre since January 2017. 

Dr Ku (second from left) with his Early Pregnancy Research Group colleagues

  1. With such heavy commitments, do you have time to unwind after work?

Yes! In fact, I do spend some time away from work, bingeing n Marvel movies and watching football matches (go Liverpool!). As a firm believer in work-life balance, I strive to be as focused and efficient at work as possible in order to spend more time with my family, who have been a wonderful pillar of support even as I continue to juggle my clinical duties and PhD now.

  1. Any tips or secrets to impart to juniors who are keen on embarking on either a research or education journey?

In simple terms, research is a formal approach to determine if the great ideas we have are able to bring about the desired changes to improve our patients' lives. This research journey requires active contribution of questions and ideas which, to put it bluntly, may not be for everyone. However, if you are keen to embark on this journey, I encourage you to put yourself out there, challenge the status quo and grasp any opportunity that comes your way.

Oftentimes, the research path may be an opportunistic journey without a one-size-fits-all approach that brings us to find the magical solution to every clinical question, but as quoted from Hippocrates – “To cure sometimes, to relieve often, and to comfort always”, the ability to triage and provide appropriate advice or guidance to our patients is still invaluable. Hence, while tough, the research journey can still be extremely rewarding if you possess an innate curiosity and desire to do things better.

Similarly, education is an important aspect of the medical journey, which I liken it to an apprenticeship; and I am happy to pay it forward as I would not be where I am today if not for the wonderful mentors that have guided me in my journey.

The most common reason holding juniors back from teaching is that they feel they lack the knowledge to teach, but that is definitely not true and you know a lot more than you think you do! Teaching is a lifelong learning process; and it is through the sharing of these ideas while teaching that I stumble upon questions that I do not immediately have an answer to, and that is how I continue to learn every day.

​*This article is contributed by the SingHealth Residents' Committee (RC) and copyedited by SingHealth Education Communications.