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Graduating in the Face of a Pandemic

The year 2020 has been unlike any others – especially so for the sixth cohort of SingHealth Residency graduands who had to juggle heavier clinical loads, while preparing for their exit examinations amidst the global pandemic. We speak to Dr Lim Yee Gen (Orthopaedic Surgery) and Dr Tan Chin Kimg (Gastroenterology) to find out how COVID-19 impacted their final year in Residency, and what it was like to balance frontline deployments with their exit examinations.


Dr Lim Yee Gen
Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Programme

Dr Tan Chin Kimg
Gastroenterology Residency Programme

  1. We understand that you were deployed to help with COVID-19 operations while you were also preparing for your exit examinations. Tell us about your experience and how did you cope with the challenges?

    Dr Lim:

    I was deployed to the Community Care Facilities (CCF) at Singapore Expo. My key role was to screen through all COVID-19 patients admitted to CCF@Expo, and to provide them with primary level care until they were fit to be discharged.

    During my deployment, I was in the midst of preparing for my Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) Orthopaedic Surgery Exit Examinations. To maximise my time, I would try to study in between my lunch and dinner breaks. We were also given days off in between our deployment duties so I was able to get some studying done then as well.

    I am fortunate and thankful to have an understanding wife, who managed the household chores, as well as took great care of our kids so that I could focus on my duties at CCF@Expo while preparing for my exit examinations.

    Dr Tan:

    For four weeks, I was based at the Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) wards; caring for and doing nasal swab tests for patients with respiratory symptoms.

    I was posted to the ARI wards six weeks prior to my exit examinations, making this period particularly challenging. Due to a shortage of manpower, I was unable to take leave to prepare for my exams as I normally would. Thankfully, I had an understanding team of colleagues and helpful juniors, who allowed me to take small pockets of time to study after completing my daily rounds. Knowing that our efforts and sacrifices were appreciated by the members of the public also made coping with the challenges easier.

  1. Was there any unforgettable experience you had during your deployment?

    Dr Lim:

    It was unforgettable seeing how everyone – doctors, nurses and allied health colleagues came together to work as a team to combat against the virus. At CCF@Expo, your rank, job title, and level of experience did not matter. Everyone was able to voice their opinions and to share ideas on how to improve the daily workflow, so as to provide the best care to our patients.

    Despite the challenging conditions, it was encouraging to know that our sacrifices and efforts were appreciated by our patients and the public. Many had penned letters of encouragement and appreciation as well as showered us with gifts of food.

    Dr Tan: The first patient that I did a swab test for turned out to be a positive case! This was an interesting case, as this patient who was a migrant worker had symptoms suggestive of a stroke, instead of COVID-19. Nonetheless, a swab test had to be conducted as part of the mandatory routine testing following the rise in number of COVID-19 cases in the migrant worker dormitories.

  1.  What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?

    Dr Lim:

    I realised the importance of humanity and teamwork in such times of crisis: Humanity in the form of the selfless healthcare professionals at CCF@Expo, who were risking their lives to treat patients and to protect others from the virus; great teamwork in keeping a lookout for one another and ensuring that everyone was well taken care of.

    Despite the uncertainties and challenges surrounding this pandemic, I am thankful to have had this opportunity to contribute to the nation’s fight against COVID-19, alongside my wonderful comrades at CCF@Expo. If given a choice, I would definitely do it all over again in a heartbeat!

    Dr Tan:

    It does not matter how junior or senior one’s rank is, what his or her nationality is; everyone is equal in the eyes of a pandemic. No effort is too small, to make a difference as long as everyone is doing their part in the fight against the pandemic.

  1. How has your COVID-19 experience re-shaped your perspective in Medicine as you embark on the next chapter of your medical career as an Associate Consultant?

    Dr Lim:

    Having been on the frontline tackling the virus, I have gained first-hand experience on how to better respond and react in the face of future pandemics. It has shown me that the learning journey in Medicine never stops, even as I take on my new role and responsibilities as an Associate Consultant.

    This global pandemic has also taught me the importance of flexibility in my approach to deal with unexpected challenges or crises, such as leveraging on technology to continue to provide the best care to our patients.