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The New Normal

Dr Vincent Tay.jpg

If ‘normal’ is defined as “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern”, then a typical day is never normal for Dr Vincent Tay, a Year 4 Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery Resident. He jokes, “A ‘normal’ work day for a Plastics Resident is one filled with uncertainty, where you’re constantly on your toes.”

Vincent can never really be sure what will happen during any given shift, especially when he pulls duty in the Burns Intensive Care Unit. The large number of case referrals to the Plastic Surgery Department means that his schedule is unpredictable. The results of surgery cannot be taken for granted either. Despite the best efforts of surgeons, a patient’s condition may not meet initial expectations and can change at any moment.

Amidst this sea of uncertainty, Vincent maintains a positive outlook by focusing on the uplifting aspects of his chosen profession. He tells of cases where patients come in for follow-ups at the clinic with satisfactory cosmesis and minimal to no limitation of function. “These instances really make our day. As surgeons, these are the times when we are most happy and proud,” he says.

In Vincent’s opinion, the only constant in his job is that Residency training is and will always be a labour of love. “It would be a lie to say I never felt like giving up. I am human; as a new father and a busy surgeon-in-training, juggling work and family commitments is a constant struggle. I advise all students thinking of specialising to consider this: your perspective can change a few years down the road. What you think you want now might be quite different from what you want once you are in a different phase of life.” 

Vincent speaks from personal experience. Nearly a decade ago, he was a neuroscience researcher who believed that he would eventually specialise in a related field after medical school. In fact, his heart was set on Neurosurgery. However, a rotation in the Plastic Surgery Department changed it all. “The opportunity presented itself and the rest is history.” He muses, “There are so many possibilities in life. I have never once felt constrained by the circumstances.”

As someone who discovered his passion by boldly tackling unfamiliar challenges, Vincent firmly believes that while sacrifices need to be made, there are also ideals that one cannot and will not compromise on. He offers the following advice: “Things will be clearer if you hold your priorities close to heart. Never fear the unknown!”