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Doctors as Leaders


Dr Colin Tan

When Dr Colin Tan, Year 2 Nuclear Medicine Senior Resident, was nominated for the Singapore Chief Residency Programme (SCRP), he had expected it to be a series of didactic conferences on leadership and policy. One year in, the programme has bucked his expectations, instead turning out to be an amazing learning journey of self-discovery and leadership development. Colin shares his experiences on how the SCRP has sparked new ways of thinking.

1. How has the SCRP benefitted you?

As Chief Residents, we are often presented with multiple unique challenges on top of our usual clinical duties as doctors. These range from having a voice at management meetings, to roster planning, to facilitating teaching activities.

The SCRP has given me multiple tools and frameworks to tackle these tasks effectively. For example, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument allows us to understand not only our own preferred conflict management style, but also that of others. I have found the tool invaluable during intense discussions where there may be conflict/disagreement, in terms of positioning my own arguments in alignment with the conflict mode and interests of the other party. All in all, it has been an amazing learning journey of engaging workshops and honest dialogues with like-minded colleagues.


2. How did you balance your heavy work load and responsibilities, with the requirements of the SCRP?

Time management is the key; I try to unlock as much hidden time in the work day as possible. I often use my lunch break to catch up on emails or to study. Even if there is hard work, it is fulfilling to see projects or initiatives come to fruition. These small victories drive me to do even more. During a particularly busy period, I delete all my social media apps from my phones so I do not get distracted—you would be amazed how much extra time you will "gain"!


3. How has the SCRP helped to develop your leadership abilities?

The SCRP is a programme that does not give answers. On the contrary, we were often posed questions for which no perfect answer exists. This has taught me to continually question how we can do things better, be it as a clinician, educator, or leader.

To me, a good leader must always lead for the right reasons. At the very core, this means putting the good of the patient and the community at the centre of any decision one makes.

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how to be a better doctor and now, a leader. I hope to use these skills to benefit our patients and the medical community.


4. What advice would you give to medical students who want to develop their leadership and mentorship skills?

I feel that leadership grows out of service. This may entail taking up tasks without credit, for the good of our community. As a medical student, this means taking up challenging tasks like "tutorial organizer" or appointments in your class committee. With the heart of service, leadership opportunities will come your way eventually. Continue to serve your patients with sincerity, and opportunities will find you.