RADIATION therapist Muhammad Zafrie Saad, 26, has always been interested in working with cancer patients in a hospital.
He was in the second year of his radiation therapy course at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) when he received a scholarship that would enable him to pursue a career at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS).
The Healthcare Merit Award, formerly known as the Health Science and Nursing Scholarship, is offered by the Ministry of Health, and came with a three-year bond.
The scholarship covered Mr Zafrie’s tuition fees and provided a monthly maintenance
allowance for two years during his NYP diploma course, and for the one-year Singapore Institute of Technology-Trinity College Dublin (SIT-TCD) degree conversion
It also covers certain expenses for student exchange programmes as long as the student meets the minimum grade point average requirements.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy from TCD in 2015.
Gearing up for the future
Mr Zafrie’s polytechnic course included six to eight weeks of clinical attachments per semester.
During this period, he worked at NCCS, Tan Tock Seng Hospital and National University Hospital under the supervision of a radiation therapist to administer radiation treatment to cancer patients.
He also spent a month at Velindre Cancer Centre in Wales, United Kingdom, where he learnt how different practices were adapted in a different work culture.
He says: “For every clinical attachment, we had several competency reports to write and, sometimes, case studies to do."
“We also had other assignments, group work or projects from other modules. Proper time management was needed to complete all these promptly and well.”
During his SIT-TCD programme, Mr Zafrie spent two weeks on clinical attachment with St James’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland.
He also spent seven weeks attending lectures and tutorial classes, as well as doing group work and projects with TCD’s fourth-year students.
The rest of the programme was completed in Singapore at SIT.
Mr Zafrie enjoyed TCD’s research-intensive curriculum that focused on evidence-based
practice instead of textbook examples.
He says: “All my assignments and essays required plenty of research and evidence from medical journals."
“We were taught to scrutinise research papers and use those which have strong data, such as those with randomised controlled trials.”
Making an impact
The youngest of four children, Mr Zafrie is an experienced mountaineer who enjoys pushing his physical and mental limits by scaling peaks in Asia and Africa,
and was the third Singaporean to conquer the 7,134m Lenin Peak in Kyrgyzstan.
He also refurbished and taught in a remote village school in Bali under the National Youth Council’s Youth Enrichment Programme.
“It showed me a totally different perspective of life and how little things I do can make a big impact in other people’s lives,” he says.
Mr Zafrie has been working at NCCS since he graduated two years ago.
Having been rotated among the different teams in the radiation therapy department, he has gained experience in the usage of various machines and modalities employed in the treatment of cancer.
He aspires to be an advanced practitioner to treat specific areas of the body or specialise in certain fields such as palliative cases.
He feels that this will enable him to assist with complicated cases, write treatment protocols and liaise with different departments when patients go on multimodality
treatments such as chemotherapy, speech therapy and dental care.
“Cancer patients need much help and I want to be able to use my knowledge to give them the best treatment possible,” he says.