Students’ Take: NHG Orthopedic Surgery Residency Sharing

By Huang Daran, Class of 2022

How did a US Army reject Steve Rogers become the Captain America that we all know of? With time and heart. Perhaps a few additional factors as well, but none more important than the two factors which Tan Tock Seng Hospital Head of Service (Foot and Ankle Surgery) and LKCMedicine Adjunct Assistant Professor Muhd Farhan Bin Mohd Fadil alluded to in his residency sharing with us medical students, analogous to what is required to develop into a full-fledged orthopedic surgeon.

Our inaugural Orthopedic Surgery Student Interest Group (SIG) was formed to better serve the sizable population of students who have developed a personal interest in the field, as well as those who ponder if they should. As such, we took it upon ourselves to invite Asst Prof Farhan (C), Programme Director of NHG Orthopedic Surgery Residency, and his team of speakers, Dr Remesh Kunnasegaran (C), Dr Tamara Soh (AC) and Dr Daniel Hap (SR), to provide more insight into their residency programme on the morning of 24 April.

Due to heightened restrictions in light of COVID-19, we explored a hybrid setting whereby we would conduct the sharing through Zoom, after setting up a conducive environment and hosting the speakers within our Clinical Sciences Building. This provided us with the versatility to open the session to medical students from the other two local medical schools as well, a gesture to expand our SIG’s networking outreach in future. In total, up to 30 students attended the session.

Amid a cold and unforgiving rain, it was heartening to see the surgeons deliver content pitched to our level in a witty and informal manner, as well as the faces of the audience which did not portray any hint of regret for tuning in (instead of sleeping in).

We were given a glimpse of the current requirements and statistics for their residency programme, the qualities they look out for in a potential resident along with job prospects after exiting. As the speakers had varied backgrounds, they also offered their own perspective on the MOPEX journey before the residency itself, what “unknowns” one may face during training, as well as a very sensible and down-to-earth take on women in the field.

Alongside drawing parallels between the journey of an orthopedic surgeon and that of Captain America, Asst Prof Farhan shed light on his “5+5+5+30” rule, whereby each number should correspond to the years spent in each phase of an Orthopedics career (starting from medical school!). This also touched on the importance of lifelong learning, especially in the dynamic and technology-centric line of work. Dr Remesh did not require any visual aids to recount his less worn path during MOPEX, whereby he started off certain he was keen on General Surgery...which of course was not what it turned out. He took his time to advise us that we should do the same when exploring our clinical interests after medical school, but not to forget to develop essential clinical skills along the way that will make us valuable to the workforce.

Dr Tamara did not hold back on the drawbacks of being a lady in her male-dominated workplace, such as the physical limitations, occupational hazards during pregnancy and other sociocultural factors. Yet, her message was strong and clear: Orthopedic Surgery is challenging regardless of gender. Nobody enters this residency thinking it will be an easy path, and its sheer difficulty has not deterred the large number of suitors every year. What should be strongly considered, however, is one’s interest and capability in the field. Knowing that Orthopedic Surgery is well looked upon, Dr Hap started his sharing with reasons why we should NOT be gunning for that residency, that it is tiring, has difficult work-life integration as well as its fair share of job hazards and complications. Fortunately, he proceeded to remind everyone of the rewarding aspects of Orthopedics, such as its tangible nature and relative ability to instantly gratify patients.

Throughout the morning, our dreamlike impression of the field was embellished with more lifelike but seasoned strokes as we grasped the experiences of those who have come before us. As they spoke at length about NHG’s unique social support and camaraderie, it felt very real; they were its living embodiment the moment they met with us and interacted behind the scenes, all the way till the conclusion of the Zoom session when they had some final parting words of appreciation for our SIG’s Executive Committee. In hindsight, this event felt like a satisfying success, not because we organized it perfectly, but because the perfect blend of speakers graced our event with their pearls of wisdom and pointers.