Dr Rebecca Lim, a third-year Resident at Singapore General Hospital, specialises in a relatively small part (about 0.5%) of the human body that has a big impact in how we lead our daily lives: the hand. Most people rely on their hands to make a living—and to remain independent. So, Hand Surgeons have an important job: to help their patients maintain and retain the use of their hands.
Hand Surgery is considered a complex surgical specialty. Despite its relatively small size, the hand has six different types of tissue, a large bundle of nerves and blood vessels, and numerous joints and muscles that facilitate the fine motor functions we often take for granted. Hand surgeons must be meticulous to deal with such intricacy—a trait that Rebecca has had plenty of opportunities to develop through the diverse case mix she has encountered in the SingHealth Hand Surgery Residency Programme.
On her very first Registrar call, Rebecca had four major cases lined up at once for her review. “It (the review) took me the whole night and carried on well into the next day! I had patients suffering from lost fingertips, which required reconstruction; a severely mangled dominant hand; deep wrist lacerations with severed tendons, nerves and arteries; and an open fracture.” While she admits being exhausted at the end of all the surgeries, Rebecca lets on that she was “exhilarated and really motivated, as each case was unique and had great learning value.”
The concern and advice offered by her seniors was another factor that contributed to her learning. “I had very good support from my department. My seniors zipped in and out of the operating theatre periodically to check on me, teach me and guide me,” she says gratefully. This has inspired Rebecca to pay it forward. The aspiring educator and up-and-coming Hand Surgeon has big dreams about working with those following in her footsteps. “My ambitions include engaging like-minded juniors in research and clinical work effectively and encouraging them to do electives with the Department of Hand Surgery.” She adds with a laugh: “If you have a Zen-like temperament, are conscientious, meticulous, and tolerant, and have extremely good physical and mental stamina, come join us!”
When asked to pass on a tip for medical students interested in Hand Surgery, Rebecca offers: “Success is no accident. It is equal parts hard work, perseverance, consistent learning and studying, sacrifice and most of all, love for what you do.”
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