Captions: Ms Jamie Kok became interested in podiatry as a vocation after she encountered friends and family suffering from foot-related problems. PHOTO: JASPER YU
Byline: Elizabeth Liew
One consequence of the ongoing pandemic is that some patients fear visiting a hospital to get treatment as they are afraid of catching Covid-19. This is one challenge faced by Ms Jamie Kok, a senior podiatrist at National University Hospital (NUH).
Determined to ensure that her patients continue to receive timely care and intervention for their conditions, the 27-year-old, who heads NUH’s inpatient podiatry team, personally calls to check in on them and address their Covid-19-related concerns.
“We have to encourage patients with poorly managed wounds to come to the hospital to receive care despite the Covid-19 situation, in order to prevent any need for amputation or even loss of life,” says Ms Kok.
She was also deployed to care for Covid-19 patients with urgent foot issues, such as infections, and triage cases based on their severity. Foot care is especially crucial for those with diabetes, as about one in six diabetic patients develop foot problems, such as ulcers, blisters and calluses, which do not heal quickly. If not properly cared for, an ulcer may get infected, which could lead to amputation.
She explains: “Over time, diabetic patients may experience reduced sensations in their feet. Coupled with poor eyesight, they may not realise they have wounds until a podiatrist points it out. We’ve even found small pebbles or glass lodged in a patient’s foot!”
The right fit
Podiatry is not a common choice of profession in Singapore; it is currently not offered as a degree here and all local podiatrists have had to receive their training overseas. However, Ms Kok felt particularly drawn to this unique allied health practice.
“I found it fascinating to learn about foot-related conditions and treatment possibilities as I had many close friends and family members suffering from foot-related problems, mainly caused by ill-fitting footwear and bunions,” she shares.
A job-shadowing stint at Changi General Hospital after her A levels made her realise she wanted to be
part of the healthcare profession. With her family’s encouragement, she applied for the MOH Holdings Healthcare Merit Award to pursue podiatry.
Ms Kok received the healthcare scholarship in 2012, which gave her the opportunity to study at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Upon graduating in 2017, she joined the NUH Rehabilitation Centre. “Early on in my healthcare journey, I assumed that patients would naturally be driven to get better and I just needed to provide professional expertise. But I soon realised that only a handful of people actually heed the advice they are given,” she says.
“While we want to do the best for patients and we have the ideal treatment in mind, healthcare is much more than that. We can’t always apply textbook answers. We need to work with our patients and try to understand what their concerns and limitations are.”
Learning to tailor the patient’s experience, depending on their expectations and attitudes towards their own health, has brought a deeper sense of purpose to her job. She says: “When patients see the good you’re doing in their lives, they will be more willing to listen and accept your advice. That takes persistence, gentleness and perseverance.”
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