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Never a Dull Moment in Research

​'Research' has a reputation of being dull and boring, but is this true? Dr Tai Beishan Sarah (Nuclear Medicine Resident) shares her research endeavours and challenges she faced in taking a year off from Residency to pursue the Clinician Scientist track – all in the interest of research.


  1. How has your journey as a Clinician Scientist been?

On the whole, good!

I am glad to be part of the SingHealth Residency's Nuclear Medicine Residency Programme, where research is a key part of the specialty. My time as a Nuclear Medicine Resident has been nothing short of exciting as I get to dabble in research for both oncological and non-oncological specialties, which prompted me to take a year off from Residency to pursue a career in research as a Clinician Scientist (CS).

The CS track has given me the opportunity to be involved in the Phase 0 clinical trial that studies the pharmacokinetics of 18F-FPEB, a positron emission tomography (PET) radiopharmaceutical tracer in the brains of normal and healthy human subjects to identify potential neurological diseases, such as schizophrenia and addiction. As a CS Resident, I was also fortunate to be able to work on various grant applications – one of which was with Dr Xie Wanying, Programme Director Nuclear Medicine Residency Progamme, Dr Andrea Low, Head of the Department of Rheumatology and Immunology, Singapore General Hospital, and Dr Maria Noviani, a fellow CS Resident, where we studied how a novel fibroblast imaging tracer could provide critical information on the disease activity of interstitial lung diseases in scleroderma. It was such an eye-opening and satisfying experience, especially when our grant was approved!

  1. What made you decide to pursue your interest in research on top of your Residency training?

Since young, I have had a strong interest in research. All I wanted to be back then was a clinician who could make a direct, tangible difference to patient care while also being able to delve deep and find fundamental solutions to the diseases that plagued my patients. I must say that despite the fact that I am older and no longer see things through rose-tinted glasses, my passion for research still remains strong.

It also helped that I have an extremely supportive department filled with nurturing bosses and colleagues-turned-friends who are very involved and passionate about research too. They gave me the courage to pursue my interests on top of juggling Residency as well as spurring me on to write my first-ever grant, which turned out to be such a great learning experience.

  1. How do you know research is the path to take?

I have always been interested in research. My strong personal faith and the thought that I’m making a difference in someone else’s life have kept me focused and motivated to continue on this journey.

  1. What challenges have you faced in being involved in Research as a Resident?

Maintaining a good balance between clinical and research training as well as family time. We all have different priorities in life, but the same 24 hours in a day. I am unable to devote the same amount of time to my clinical work, research and family as I would like. As a result, I attempt to make the most of my time by compartmentalising it, such as focusing on clinical work during the week and working on my research during the weekends, as the latter usually requires some quiet and uninterrupted time for thinking.

However, due to the nature of research, there may be times when the long hours and work I put in yields no tangible results, and I will have to reduce the amount of time I spend studying and perhaps with my family. This is an opportunity cost I have accepted and I’m extremely grateful to have a strong support network of understanding bosses, colleagues and family members that believe in me more than I do. I may not have it all together at the moment, but I’m learning to be satisfied with giving my best.

  1. What are your research interests and aspirations?

I hope that my research efforts will assist in identifying and implementing an effective solution to any unmet clinical need. I am also looking forward to learning basic bench skills in target discovery, rational drug design and conducting translational clinical trials.

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