Thursday, December 29, 2005


balancing on this knife edge of uncertainty
i want to fall off the precipice
which side doesn't matter
as long as I fall
to end this state of confusion
and emotional torment

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Watching the first episode of "Grey's Anatomy" brought back memories, both good & bad, of my own internship. The busy calls, "Nazi" residents, wonderful consultants who actually treat you like a person who is there to learn instead of just a grunt worker...these were so real to me. I wonder how laypersons reacted to watching how some of the interns were treated (made to look like fools). Doesn't seem too humane, does it? But it happens (unfortunately).

This looks like a promising series - I look forward to watching, and remembering, more.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pride & Prejudice the Movie (*Spoiler Alert*)

Die-hard Jane Austen fans would hate this movie. Not only did they change & condense bits of the story (especially Darcy's explanation to Elizabeth about Wickham's past behaviour), but the screenwriters also modified some of the dialogue of the characters.

Me? I liked it. I especially liked the lead actors playing Elizabeth (Kiera Knightly) & Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen); Donald Sutherland also did a superb portrayal of Mr Bennet & the scene in the study where he asks Lizzie about her true feelings for Mr Darcy brought me to tears. Judi Dench, as Lady Catherine De Burgh, did not fail to live up to her reputation.

The emotional angst & passion in the story were turned way up compared with the mini-series starring Colin Firth, & will satisfy the ladies who will swoon over Mr Macfadyen's Darcy. The scene in which he strides through a misty hazed meadow towards Elizabeth before they finally declare their love for each other, did for me, what the scene of Colin Firth in a sodden white shirt at Pemberly, did for Bridget Jones. Sigh...

I survived my first Teenage Party

No, not as a participant (I had my fair share of such do's eons ago), but as a Supervising Parent (God, I feel so old as I type that). My older son celebrated the end of the semester, as well as his 14th birthday this past weekend at our condo pool.

Having sixteen 13 & 14 year old boys & girls all in one place is no joke, man, I tell you... All those adolescent hormones raging, one boy was literally almost climbing the wall by the pool till my panicked husband stopped him! They were chasing each other around the pool, in the pool, out of the pool, singing songs, girls screaming/ poor neighbours...

They had to let out steam I guess, 8th grade is hard work, & it's been a strenuous Semester for the kids with almost no break since Aug (apart from a couple of days over Thanksgiving) till now. If I were them, I'd be screaming too.

But well, I survived to live another day. Don't ask me when I will organise another one of these things again - I need to recuperate first...I have another 2 years before my other son turns 14, so that should give me some time...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas Spirit (or the lack thereof)

My son commented that I had lost the Christmas spirit this year. This was triggered by the fact that till today (count:10 more days till Christmas!) I have yet to put up a single Christmas decoration, let alone buy a tree!

"Why?" you may ask.

Well, first of all, I think that in the local context, getting a real tree is such a hassle, as there are no garbage trucks that pick up the used tree for recycling when the season is over.

Secondly, I have not felt that Christmas magic in a number of years. This is magnified by the fact that in the local context, the original meaning of Christmas has pretty much gone down the drain... I thought that Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Christ? For many (especially kids), it's just another excuse for giving (getting) presents. Oh, I know that there are Christians out there who know that there is more to Christmas than the presents & the tree, but I would hazard a guess to say that if you go out on the streets & interview one of the many shoppers thronging O. Road asking them what Christmas means, 8 out of 10 will tell you "Getting Presents".

I plead guilty to being one of those indulgent parents who tried to bring the magic of Christmas alive, with the tree & the stockings by the fireplace (we actually did have a fireplace while living in the US) & the cookies/milk for Santa etc. etc. Moving back to this tropical clime, this was hard to maintain (how does santa come down the chimney if we don't have one???). Believe you me, I tried to delay the inevitable Truth About Santa from my kids (they believed till they were 9 & 7 respectively!).

Sadly, with growing up also comes the loss of that faith in the magical (there goes the Tooth Fairy). And being caught up in the rat race of life has also resulted in a certain jadedness & a realisation of the hypocrisy over the whole Christmas rigmarole.

Perhaps I need to dig down deep inside & examine what Christmas has really meant to me all these years. Perhaps it has become more than just a religious celebration. Perhaps it is also a chance for us to celebrate the love & togetherness of a family, and a willingness to give joy & happiness to our loved ones. This does sound like it is getting all mushy, isn't it? Perhaps it means that I am starting to feel some of the Christmas spirit after all...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


This letter to the editor in today's newspaper gives a different perspective on the difference between the "elite" and "neighbourhood" schools locally. I have heard of similar views from a friend of mine whose child goes to one of these "elite" schools.

I had been grousing to her about my dissatisfaction with the education that my kids were getting in the local system, and had thought that perhaps, it was because they weren't in one of the "elite" schools that the quality was lacking. She then replied that the only difference between these schools & a neighbourhood school was that most of the kids in the elite had the resources available to them to go for extra tutoring & "enrichment" courses; hence they managed to get better grades in their exams.

It was certainly an eye-opener for me that the education system has changed so much from the time that we were in school till the present time. Come to think of it, I remember getting a phone call from my son's Chinese teacher when he was in Pr 1, asking if he had anyone tutoring him in Chinese. At the time, being newly from the US, I had naively thought that putting a 6 year old child through extra classes outside of school was ridiculous, so had resisted doing so. The teacher had been shocked when I said no, & insisted that I should engage a tutor for him, as it was not possible for her to bring his grasp of the language to the acceptable standard without outside help.

Which brings me to the next question: if the teachers themselves think that they are unable to teach a child adequately & requests for the child to get extra tutoring, and if schools ROUTINELY schedule remedial/supplementary classes in addition to the normal school hours, does that not mean that something is not right with the system???

And another thing...I wonder why these "elite schools" tend to be grouped in districts where the affluent live? I know of at least 3 "neighbourhood" schools which have been displaced from their previous locations within these affluent districts (they still maintain their original names a couple of which were taken from the street names where they were located), & their sites taken over by the "elite" schools. Another form of social engineering, hmmm?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lessons Learnt

Why do you want to become a doctor?

This question has been asked countless times to potential medical students during their pre-admission interview.

Standard answers probably include things like
a) "I want to help people"
b) "I think it is a noble profession".

More realistic reasons would probably include
a) pleasing the parents;
b) thinking that doctors lead glamourous lives (as portrayed on medical TV dramas),& are like the white knights of the days of old, charging in on their gallant steeds to protect patients and slay the disease-dragons
c) wanting to achieve a certain standing in society (doctors have historically been placed on a pedestal by society).

In rare cases, a student truly feels that it is his/her calling to become a physician.

The truth is, yes, you do get to help people -and this is invaluable. What they don't tell you is that you also get a lot of crap in return. And also, that white knight on a steed? Well, sometimes they have to deal with a blunt sword or being able to afford a steed at all; their king may also close off short cuts leading to the patients, & instead decree that they have to take the path that is laden with strewn logs & brambles.

So do I regret the decision I made of becoming a doctor? No. The decision was made according to the circumstances surrounding my situation at that point of time.

And do I think it a waste that I have stopped working as a doctor (for now)? Again, no. I believe I have put in my share of blood, sweat & tears; I do believe that I have saved countless lives, or at least improved the quality of life of many of my patients.

And in return, my experiences & knowledge gained during these years are priceless. I have learnt of the fragility of human life, and the resilience of the human soul to survive seemingly insurmountable setbacks. I have learnt that underneath all that skin, no matter what color it may be, we are all the same. I have learnt not to take life for granted. I have developed "thicker skin" so that ill-meant remarks don't cut as deep (thanks to certain 'senior' doctors during the houseman days). I have learnt to be a (hopefully!) better mother who doesn't panic at the slightest whimper of my child (thanks to postings thru neonatal ICU & pediatric surgery). I have also learnt that this is not a perfect world, and that sometimes, wanting to do right & actually doing it right are two entirely different things altogether. And lastly, I have learnt that politics is inherent in everything you do in this society; no matter how good your intentions are, you still have jump through the right hoops to achieve what you want to achieve - not an easy task if you are one who is not politically-inclined (read: good at brown-nosing).

So to all you potential doctors out there, don't let my rantings & the rantings of other doc blogs discourage you from becoming a physician. Just make sure that you don't go into it with rose-tinted glasses, like some of us did, & you will be fine.

Learning English

This letter in today's newspaper reiterates the point I was trying to make in a previous post.

Learning a language (be it English, Chinese, Malay or Tamil) is more than just filling in the blanks or multiple choice questions. Let's hope the folks in the Education Ministry realise it soon...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Gimme a Break!

Ever since I started my self-imposed sabbatical away from the world of medicine (both clinical & non-clinical) 6 months ago, people I meet, be they family members, friends or even newly acquainted persons, ask me why I stopped working & when I will be going back to work.

My much repeated answer to the first question is, to summarise it: disillusionment, dissatisfaction, re-prioritization of my life.

Why disillusionment? I must admit that this started way back in the first years of my residency, when I was posted through the then-compulsory outpatient rotation (in my case, a polyclinic posting). The workload back then was just as bad (if not worse) than it is now. I remember my personal record of seeing 100 elderly patients with chronic illnesses on a Saturday morning from 8.30 am to 12.30 p.m.!!! It was literally come in, sit down, measure blood pressure/pulse, listen to heart/lungs, repeat prescription & out they went. Not quite the ideal situation for consults, as you can imagine.

Another eye-opener for me was the lack of scruples in our fellow man. My inherent (& perhaps naive) idealism in the goodness of human nature took a battering when I came across numerous malingerers (especially those NS guys -sorry, but this was based on my personal observations) hoping for MCs.

And in more recent times, I have grown increasingly disillusioned with this so-called "noble profession" as I see the dog-eat-dog world of corporate medicine, fighting to get contracts with companies, with undercutting and fancy packages (with sometimes dubious value) geared to attract HR managers. Doctors have become assembly-line workers, churning out patients from their consultation rooms. The higher the number of patients they see, the better it is for the practice since more consults = more $$$. I know that this is not reflective of all doctors, & that my skepticism & jadedness is a result of my personal experiences, but I am sure there are many fellow physicians out there who feel the same way.

And then there are the patients. Period. I am sure angrydoc's blog will give you many examples of doctor's dealings with patients which can be rather, ahem, challenging :). I have also recounted some of these experiences in some of my previous entries.

As for the 2nd question, the answer is simply: I don't know. I have yet to feel the urge or the calling to resume clinical practice. Whether or not I will ever feel it again, I don't know...I may still go back to practising part-time or as a locum, just to keep the neurons firing, but not just yet...let me take a break first.