The last student consult

I’ve officially finished with hospital rotations for the year, which basically means it’s time to knuckle down for some serious cramming (and lots of chocolate and coffee consumption) before the finals in 2 weeks. 

My last consultation yesterday took place in the orthopaedic outpatient clinic.

I was tasked to see a high functioning schizophrenic man who had sustained a scaphoid fracture after he  was hit by a car, and had come in for a review of his injury.

It has been more than a year since my mental health rotation, more than a year since I had the incredible privilege to listen to terrifying tales only the dark abyss of the human mind can conjure, where the only limiting factor to a patient’s suffering was the extent of his florid imagination and subconscious driven by a disease physically invisible to the rest of the world. I listened to stories of rat boy and spider boy, of white witches that come to taunt through the night, of guts that levitated from out of an abdomen, a foot that had the capability of rotating 360˚ on its own, of voices in the attic/fireplace/sink, of transistor radios and television personalities speaking of a revolt. What a life it must be to believe, see and hear all these on a daily basis, it would drive anyone mad and to the brink of suicide. 

I had forgotten what a crippling, lonely disease mental illness is.

So on this last day. I sat on the bed and looked at my patient, my heart swelling with empathy, reminding myself that he needed not just my kind words, but an objective assessment and plan with which he could follow. I sat and listened as he held a conversation with me, smiling, nodding, laughing, sometimes nervous and unsure. I learnt that he had a job working as a pizza delivery boy, that he was hardworking and contributing citizen to society, that he was coping well on his medications. And in that moment I marvelled, at the great wonder and miracle of medicine. At how science, curiosity and the love for mankind has made living better for some people, and how privileged I am to be part of this cause, this profession.

I am so humbled.

I hope to see you all on the other side, after the exams, hopefully victorious.

Wish me luck.

I can’t wait to be the doctor that serves you.




November 10, 2012. Uncategorized. 2 comments.


Borrowed wisdom atop a cheap dinky wooden ikea shower rack in the boy’s place. A place I’ve come to love very much.

October 2, 2012. Miscellaneous. 2 comments.

On my own Merits

Having recently interviewed for an internship position in Singapore, I remember why I left.

Life is funny isn’t it? You spend all your time focused on the finish line, but as you near the end, you realise, after all the pomp and hoo-ha, the joy was in the running itself, and you become less sure of what your end point was to begin with, having had to make many different choices along your race.

Almost 4 years, chasing lofty dreams, in a country that gave me a chance, when my own didn’t.

Let’s face it, anyone with a CV like mine would have NEVER have made it into a local institution in Singapore to pursue medicine. Not surprising that the panel of six distinguished doctors of which, all heads of departments, including an ex-asean scholar, found it difficult to engage in small talk with me, a problem my peers who were all from elite schools and completely schooled (up till this stint in Australia) within the Singapore system did not face, with the doctors warmly asking them about their respective schools and research projects. 

I had forgotten.

I had forgotten that Singapore operates based on Merit.

Meritocratic Singapore, a place even my younger sibling shunned but eventually returned to serve within the public sector, within the system. Grand plans to make change from within. I wish him luck.

I know that my career progression will be stunted within the local system, I am keenly aware of the realities of a meritocratic society. Where performance will be constantly graded, where your apparent abilities or lack of, will be projected even before you begin and for some, perhaps like myself, trying your hardest will never ever be good enough, because as it is, I enter not on a level playing field, given my past academic track record. But you remind yourself, it is the journey, the end goal started off as being a motivating factor to get the gears in motion, but, the joy is in the journey.

I will still get to practice medicine. I will be able to serve the people I love (yes, Singaporeans!), I will be amongst great minds and thinkers and be humbled, I will be challenged, everyday.

The panel cleared the interview and I was made a job offer on friday.

I may have been reminded why I left, but I still choose to return.




August 7, 2012. Med School, Think, Thunk, Thought. 4 comments.

The interview

“So you must belong to at least the top 15% of academic achievers in your country, yes? I mean, all of us here are pretty much the top 10% in Queensland”

I sometimes wonder which hole medical students crawl out from, a place where EQ, diplomacy and graciousness cease to exist.

I wonder if it is because I am currently in a medical programme which admits students solely on the basis of merit, without the need for an interview (apparently the school conducted a large cohort study and determined that interviews had little bearing on the successful outcomes of medical graduates).

Sure, interviews are extremely flawed, as is with any jury panel, easily swayed, biased and subject to so many variables at any given point in time. Not to mention students are able to prepare themselves to deftly field questions, putting forth a persona of whoever the interview panel wants them to be. I think back to my first medical school interview with a University in London. I was 17, ill prepared and very miserably cold (winter!). They skipped the typical questions like “So why do you want to do medicine?” and instead, chatted with me about life, yes life, a life outside of academia. They asked me who my favourite piano composer was, as they saw from my CV that I was at the time pursuing a performer’s certificate, asked about my life in England, being in a boarding school, was it difficult being so far away from home, what I did for fun and then as an after thought, asked me a medical-ish question right at the end. They were trying to get an essence of who I was, I suspect.

I wonder if all these brilliant but emotionally apathetic individuals would have been here if they interview system was still in place. And at the end of the day, the most important question is what benefits the patient most? An emotionally detached and cold but extremely gifted doctor, or an adequate doctor with great compassion and care for his/her patients.

April 5, 2012. Med School. 1 comment.

The holiday that was

Oh Lordy!


There wasn’t any impetus to write in all that time, probably because I busied myself with proper living rather than spending a disproportionate amount of time stuck behind the computer, which is often the norm when I am back here in Brisbane. This probably explains why I am updating this space again after having settled back into the humdrum, 4 weeks in.

The 7 week long holiday was just… splendid. Perhaps with the realisation that intern year looms, one starts to try and make everyday count, a case of visualising the end to appreciate the present.

So what did I/we do?

We had Penang

We hosted friends

and fell in love with their bubs

We made a christmas tree… of sorts

I duelled a baking nemesis

Made a new friend, caught up with old ones and learnt of an engagement.

And amidst all of that, rebooted and turned another year with people I love

What does 2012 hold?

I’m not sure. Everything is sort of in flux at the moment, but we’ll work towards set staggered goals to get us to the end. Will we emerge victorious? The future’s an uncertainty isn’t it? We can only control what we can within our limits, leave everything else to fate/God/circumstance and cope with adversity with lots of humour.

If all else fails, we’ll always have the promise of Iceland and the endless of joy of discovery.

MADE IN ICELAND from Klara Harden on Vimeo.

February 5, 2012. Friends, Think, Thunk, Thought. 1 comment.

Mumford x Rajasthani Musos

The best part about any collaboration is the process itself.

A brilliant end product would be nice, but I doubt that results are the actual impetus for most collaborations, or if it was the initial drive, the process would probably end up having a more lasting impact and effect.

November 15, 2011. Musics, Think, Thunk, Thought. Leave a comment.


I remember Gertrude.

I remember that head of white and paper thin skin, daughter by her side, holding her hand, hands so thin they looked like reeds with a fine mesh of veins cloaking them, she had a loud audible wheeze, barely masked by the low vibration of her nebulizer, producing magic clouds that would help open her airways. The daughter offering quiet comfort to the woman with a failing heart.

She asked for roast chicken. Her daughter looked at her and told her she couldn’t have any. It was too dangerous and that she was to have her puree because that was what the doctors ordered.

Morning ward rounds, we arrive at Gertrude’s bed. Dr Hamilton asks, “How are you today, Gertrude?” She smiles, her eyes gentle and warm, she smiles and tells him she is feeling fine. She tells him this as she is gasping for air, using all her accessory muscles to breath, as she lies on her side, wedged between two pillows as that is the only position she feels comfortable in. Dr Hamilton holds her hand. “Of course you are fine, because that’s just you isn’t it Gertrude? You never complain.”

Gertrude died that very night, she died before she could have roast chicken.

November 13, 2011. The darkness within. 2 comments.


Melamine plates found at indie designer’s market! Bring on the brekky 🙂20111106-122306.jpg
PS: Fascinating how all these new words are permeating into our everyday lexicon. I used to get really miffed when people used slangs or words/phrases born out of pop culture, but realised I should stop behaving like I have a stick up my bum and embrace the fact that language is ever evolving. Om nom nom nom!

November 5, 2011. Think, Thunk, Thought. Leave a comment.

“Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.”

“We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.”

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs

October 31, 2011. The darkness within, Think, Thunk, Thought. Leave a comment.

Autocorrect, never disappoints

Air Apraxia! A sure way NOT to fly…

October 30, 2011. Friends, Funnies. Leave a comment.

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