Monday, March 02, 2009


It's been an exhausting week, but also a most rewarding one.

The conference was a massive success, and feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with many saying it's the best one yet.

My sincere thanks to my committee, who's worked so hard and gone far beyond what is required.

The highlight, however, is spending time with a distinguished emergency medicine professor from New York City, whom I was first introduced to in October 2007 while visiting a blogger friend at his department. He is a huge hit with everyone he's met in Singapore, and I've never seen any foreign speaker bombarded from so many directions before. The poor man hardly had any time to breathe, but remained unfailingly warm and obliging to all.

Little wonder he's charmed the socks off even the most difficult people, receiving numerous invitations for personal tours and visits for future conferences in Singapore and the surrounding region.

I was most fortunate to be able to spend time alone with him, in particular during an hour-long stroll along Orchard Road last Friday evening, prior to a conference dinner.
We spoke of many things, including work of course, but also about life in general. He shared his experience as an attending physician for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra when they went on tour, and also for Cirque du Soleil when they performed in NYC. His interests range far and wide, and I was captivated by everything I heard.
We even bumped into a mob of Edison Chen fans outside the Grand Hyatt hotel on the way back. And guess what, Prof. J knows who he is! It was hilarious. :)

The best part though, was an outing to the Night Safari last Saturday. We were joined by my registrar and another American ER physician, Dr. N, who's Prof. J's colleague and who also lectured at the conference.

I brought them to a mall near my home for dinner at Crystal Jade Kitchen. We got there before my registrar and, to my surprise, they asked me to bring them around the NTUC supermarket! Dr. N was looking for mangosteens, of all things, while Prof. J was fascinated by the huge shelves of chicken eggs in one corner. They also picked up a packet of durians to take a sniff, and didn't seem bothered by the smell.
Following that, they walked around a shop selling Chinese herbs, as the staff happily gave a mini-lecture on the various ingredients' properties to an enthralled American audience. I just stood to one side and enjoyed the scene.

Dinner was thoroughly enjoyable, and I couldn't believe they weren't already sick of local food, having eaten Chinese dishes daily since their arrival. They finished all 4 dishes ordered, including a gigantic portion of Peking duck which came in 2 parts ( skin followed by meat ), and gallantly offered to pay, before I informed them it would be charged to the hospital's account.

As expected, our table received many curious stares from nearby patrons, though service was exceedingly good, since the Americans charmed the waitresses effortlessly. Plus, Dr. N is a very good-looking chap, probably around my age, with a ready smile and beautiful manners. ( He's kind of a cross between Law & Order SVU's Christopher Meloni and E! Entertainment channel's Jason Kennedy. ) Sitting next to him was a pleasure indeed. :)

The Night Safari was an unusual experience for me, being the first time I visited during a thunderstorm. We offered to bring the Americans to another ( sheltered ) attraction, but they wouldn't have any of it. Turns out sloshing through puddles in the dark is pretty fun, if you're with the right company! They had a blast, and I too found myself beaming, especially at the leopard enclosure where they got up close to not one, but TWO, gorgeous cats resting right next to the glass panel, oblivious to the 4 humans standing just behind it.

The bat enclave turned out to be one of Prof. J's favourites, as we came face to face with numerous fruit bats hanging from the branches at eye level. Dr. N was a little unnerved, though, which the professor couldn't comprehend, with hilarious results.

I guess one of the most valuable lessons I garnered from this experience is how important emergency medicine is to me. I burn out at least once a year and handle a lot of crap from other departments ( see my last entry ), not to mention more crap from patients and relatives. But meeting counterparts from across the globe and knowing they get the same crap day in and day out is strangely inspiring. One of the best pieces of advice Dr. N offered is to "just stop fighting it", because if you keep fighting, you'll just end up hating what you do.

So as I finally get a chance to relax after 6 months of being on tenterhooks -- and suffering 4 weeks of insomnia -- I leave with many new friendships and, most importantly, hope for the future.

A note to reader Another One: will I stop pushing when I need to? You bet I won't. Being an ER physician is all about shovelling crap. I'm good at it, I'm proud of it, and I believe in being a patient advocate. So when someone refuses to do what s/he's supposed to, shows no concern for a patient then accuses me of being a bitch for pulling rank or being hostile, then that person has completely lost sight of what it truly means to be a doctor. Shame on you.

Other than that little annoyance, I'm on cloud nine. :)

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