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Patient Satisfaction Trumps Over International Recognition


Dr Serene Thain

Dr Serene Thain, a Year 5 Obstetrics & Gynaecology (O&G) Resident has every reason to celebrate. She has not only passed the Membership Examination of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (MRCOG)—which is a requirement for promotion to senior Residency in SingHealth O&G programme—but also emerged the top international candidate. Her stellar performance helped her clinch both the MRCOG Prize Medal and the 4th Asia Oceania Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Gold Medal, making her the first doctor from Singapore in nearly three decades to become a double Gold Medallist. In addition, besides her own speciality’s examinations, Serene has also taken in her own free time and passed the Membership Examination of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS), the Membership Examination of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) and the Master of Medicine for Internal Medicine (Singapore). However, these high accolades still rank below the satisfaction Serene gets from making sure that her patients, both mother and child, do well.

Serene remains in contact with many of her former patients. In particular, she speaks fondly of Mdm N, a mother of three. “I first met Mdm N during my junior Residency years while I was running my Continuity Clinic,” says Serene. “She was in her second pregnancy then, and I delivered her baby via a Caesarean section. Subsequently, she got pregnant for a third time. Due to her advanced maternal age and pre-existing hypertension, she developed gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia nearing the later part of her pregnancy, which could be very dangerous if not closely monitored. It was a privilege when she personally requested for me to care for her again!” While there was immense pressure on Serene during this period, the experience and relationship between patient and doctor only reinforced her conviction to pursue this specialty.

Like many young Residents, Serene was drawn to a number of different fields, amongst them Internal Medicine, Surgery, Paediatrics and Geriatric Medicine. It was during her Year 4 medical school posting as well has her Transitional Year post-graduation that she realised O&G was a specialty where she could develop in all these areas. “O&G is a speciality that requires not only O&G knowledge, but a great balance between medicine and surgery as well. That is the reason why I decided to pursue the learning of other specialities besides that of O&G and taking those relevant examinations,” she laughs. Serene explains, “If I lacked knowledge in any area, my patients may potentially be disadvantaged. Therefore, because I wanted to be equipped to provide the best possible care for them, I strived to learn more than was required.”

This drive to excel is propelled by Serene’s personal desire to care for her patients from the moment they come under her watch. Another patient she remembers fondly is Mdm H, who was admitted for antepartum haemorrhage in the weeks leading up to her due date. As Mdm H required careful monitoring, Serene took the opportunity to get to know her better during her long stay. “The building of rapport and trust between the patient and the Clinician is very important in ensuring that the patient maintains compliance to the recommended treatment. This is especially so for O&G patients, who may be subjected to prolonged stays in hospital for monitoring of both mother and child to avoid potentially adverse outcomes,” Serene explains. Now, five years later, Serene reports during this interview that Mdm H’s baby, who was delivered as a preterm infant, is now an active and adorable 5-year-old who is doing very well.

Serene acknowledges that she does not only deal with happy occasions like the birth of a child in her work. The speciality extends from caring for expectant mothers with emergency birth complications such as cord prolapse that has a high risk of mortality for the baby, to managing patients stricken with gynaecological cancers. The training programme covers a very wide spectrum and requires utmost commitment. A steep learning curve during the first few years in O&G Residency training is expected. “Just tide it through! Learn as much as you can from everyone you work with and don’t be afraid to ask if in doubt,” Serene advises. “Learning from your peers, seniors, mentors and Faculty members is more important than reading from textbooks. Their teachings and advice during my daily work and calls are truly such an invaluable resource!”

Stepping up as a senior Resident means more responsibilities in the wards and on the research front, but Serene is taking on another task close to her heart. She will be joining the teaching faculty in Singapore’s medical schools, starting with regular teaching slots at Duke-NUS, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Medical students keen on O&G should look out for her in your lectures soon! Serene says, “There’s nothing better than doing what you love, continually striving to improve along the way and knowing that you are on track to provide the best possible care for your patients.”