How’s M3 life so far?
"Generally it has been quite tough. Like everyone says, the jump from M2 to M3 is quite big. For me, the first 2 postings were intense, internal medicine and pediatrics so it took quite a bit of adjusting. Even though it is tough, getting into the wards and seeing how the doctors function is quite interesting. Its tough but a fun kind of tough. "
What made you step up to be the PHS director?
"There were personal as well as team based reasons.
Personal reasons wise: I joined PHS because when I volunteered for it one year, I saw how big scale it was and how it worked with a lot of different partners, so I was interested in finding out more about public health and what actually went behind the scenes in the organisation of such a big event and I really thought that it would be a good learning experience to interact with people in the regional health system and different partners across Singapore that were all involved in healthcare, to find out what are the different things that they do and what are the different things we can offer to Singaporeans and PRs.
For team based reasons, after PHS 2016, I felt a strong sense of belonging to the committee and the camaraderie and bonds that we built during the crunch period of PHS, which is during the screening period, really inspired me and lead me to feel that i wanted to contribute more to the committee and lead everyone together in a common goal. During the election system, I also told them that I was from council in JC, and council gave me a very good experience of people working tgt for a common goal, supporting each other and helping each other when one person gets tired and things like that and covering for each other and I saw that same spirit again. I’ve been trying to find it when I came to medicine and I saw that same spirit in PHS 2016, which made me decide to run as director for PHS 2017. "
Was PHS 2017 what you envisioned it to be when you joined the committee?
"At the very start of the term; the PHS comm has 2 different years involved, the M3s and M2s. So the M3s are there before the M2s. In terms of goal and direction setting it's largely being done by the M3s but definitely involves changes along the way as M2s come in and share their opinions and as we work towards that.
So I think at the very start of PHS 2017 we were focused on many things but the 2 significant things were lifestyle follow up and primary prevention. We recognise that PHS on our own, is a screening event but in Singapore the government is pushing out free initiatives that encourage free screening among Singaporeans like screen for life and programmes like that. So in a sense, PHS has to define its own niche and we wanted to do that in the 2 ways that I mentioned.
For lifestyle followup, what we do currently is follow up on the medical part of things: whether they are going for regular blood tests, whether they are being monitored, whether they are linked back to a doctor. The doctor is very limited in terms of what he/she can do for the patient because a lot of pharmacological therapy in terms of advice like exercise and diet is very out of the doctors control. So we were hoping to bring in partners like HPB whereby they could provide programs or lessons for these ppl who needed better control for diabetes and other chronic conditions. At the end of the day, it didn’t really work out for multiple reasons, these programmes were not ready for the participants, it is one of the regrets I will probably have, leaving PHS 2017 and other than that, in terms of primary prevention, we didn't manage to progress much but we did continue what we were doing and extended slightly, included new schools into our current programmes but we didn’t have any really new novel initiatives that could really push the boundaries of primary prevention. I usually focus on things that were not done so well so i skipped all the things that we have done well but these are the 2 things that I feel that we didn't manage to do during PHS 2017. "
What were the challenges / difficulties you faced as PHS director?
"There are 3 main things. The first one would be personal difficulties and challenges. Second one would be in terms of managing the team of PHS 2017 committee and last one would be more project event based - the difficulties in organising this event.
I think personal wise, honestly the commitment is quite a huge commitment and things were.. like i mentioned just now, the 2 major postings plus PHS is really not compatible with life, and you really just struggle and get lost about different things. It was difficult and tiring but ultimately you still find that it's worth it in the end. There are people there to support you and help you through it but it was definitely one of the most difficult and most intense roles i have taken up.
In terms of managing the team, there are different working styles and different characters in PHS 2017 committee and that means that necessarily there may be a bit of conflicts and styles that don’t match. I guess at the very start of PHS 2017, we made the decision to reshuffle some of the committee members as well as expand some of the committees which I think at the very start was not handled very well la. from the director’s side, we did not communicate these decisions very clearly to the committee, so there was a bit of conflict at that time. so along the way we have also been trying to figure out whether the decisions we made are right ones which we, I think we will never really have an answer to, but ultimately what has not changed is the reasons why we made those decisions which is ultimately to try and push PHS to the right direction.
Finally in terms of organising this project, PHS works with a lot a lot of partners and sometimes we just get so tied down with everything that we forget about some of them, even something as simple as email, liaison gets complicated because there are just so many different ones that we need to reply and things to settle. it's really about juggling the different things and being able to keep track of what are the things we need to settle la which I felt was pretty hard"
What's your one favourite/memorable incident in phs 17?
"Currently now the freshest and the most memorable thing that happened would clearly come from the actual screening event itself la. so i would pick the - I mean there are many moments - but I would take the moment on the morning of the saturday screening event when registration was not working out. The reason why that happened was because this year we pushed out a new electronic app and in relation to that we also had more technology based stuff to try. The reason for the app was to improve efficiency within the screening itself. But since it was the first year trying out all these technological things it did not work out on saturday morning. We intended to have 12 registration counters but 6 of them were not working because of internet issues, so that really slowed the whole process down. but, that's when I saw people really coming together and working to try and troubleshoot the issue. so the operation heads, operation comm members, people who were in charge of registration as well as the volunteers and supervisors were all working hard to try and address this issue. The volunteers and supervisors who were not able to address the tech tissue were really there to appease the participants as well as move other things as fast as possible, and the queue system was also down at the time so the supervisors were working really hard to try to organise the queue and to get ppl to the correct stations as fast as possible la, which i really appreciate. and then other than that, the rest of the comm were systematically trying to work with each other and coming up with solutions as to how we can address this problem. so slowly slowly, the counters went up to 7, 8 , 9 and finally 11 which helped the screening continue"
As you're also the Assistant Hon Gen Sec in Medsoc, what do you hope MedSoc can bring to the med population in the year ahead?
"ok I think I would answer this a bit indirectly. I feel that while medsoc will always have something to offer to the student population, the student population shouldn’t always rely on medsoc to continuously offer new initiatives to the students. So what I mean by this is, I personally feel that that there is a slight dip in terms of what we call the medicine spirit, I will cringe a little at that, but yeah. I say this because sometimes events by medsoc are not very well supported and in terms of the med population the pride that we have in med soc is not super strong as well which I believe was probably not the intention, probably not the case when medsoc first started out. What i think medsoc probably was like in the past was a student body that continuously pushed out new initiatives that the students were actually interested in and who would also work together and supported these initiatives such that the medsoc of today actually has very strong connections and strong say even in like to some extent in policies in singapore and stuff like that. As much as I think that medsoc can continually relook its processes as well as different initiatives and try and cater them more to the student population, the student population also needs to give back to medsoc by either playing a role by organising and pushing for these initiatives as well as participating and supporting them."
What advice do you have for students juggling acads with extracurricular stuff (like phs, medsoc, etc)?
"Okay actually this is quite interesting. So I understand that Medicine is a huge academic commitment by itself, and honestly stepping into med school, a lot of us would have the intention that we all want to become good and competent doctors definitely, and getting there requires a lot of hardwork on our part in terms of studying. Sometimes these projects end up becoming like a burden in terms of distracting us from the main aim which was ultimately to complete our Medicine curriculum. As a result sometimes people focus a lot more on their academic work and then neglect their duties in the different organising committees, which is pretty unfair to the rest of the people in the committees because then that means that someone has to take up your work for you and cover your slack. It is not wrong to want to focus on your academic duties, but at the same time having signed up or committed yourself to the role in the organising committee means you have a part to play and you should be involved in the work as well.
So in terms of how to juggle, I would say an important step is really to be consistent. So back in JC, I used the unhealthy method of just doing all my extracurricular stuff and leaving academics until the end to cram. But I highly do not recommend that in med school, because it is not a good idea for multiple reasons. Firstly, there is way too much to cram. Secondly, I personally believe that Medicine is not learnt by cramming but by reinforcement. So what is really important is having seen it once, and looking it through again and again and again, seeing it in the wards, and then that’s what really builds in. Because ultimately we shouldn’t be memorising, it really needs to be at your fingertips and coming to you, especially when you are a doctor and seeing patients on the spot, they are not going to wait for you to slowly recall through your 10 pages of notes just to find that one thing to answer them. Therefore one really has to be consistent in your work, which means don’t just do all your extracurricular stuff and leave [acads]. But you can find a balance. So in terms of how much time you spend... I think one way to go about it - which is a bit insane - is to really use any inkling of the time you have to really put in the work to study. Be it… this is going to sound ridiculous, but be it on the way home, on the way to school, or just commuting around during lunch… I’m not saying give up on social life, but sometimes if you really want to take up more and do more, some things have to be sacrificed. Even things like when you are showering, you don’t need your notes there, but you could still try to recall what you have just studied, because I really believe in the reinforcement part of things. Just make sure to reinforce your memory and what it was that you just read, just test yourself on random things."
One fun fact about Jin Yang?
"Errr there’s nothing fun… " (but that’s the highlight!!) "nope, that’s my highlight hahaha... it’s a secret for you to find out."
PS he was wearing cute bear socks!!!