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Happy feet

School leavers will identify with Ms Lee Qimin’s dilemma. After completing her A levels at Catholic Junior College, she did not know what career she wanted, much less what course to study at university.

To find out, Ms Lee worked in some temporary positions before the results were announced. She taught in a secondary school, did administrative work at another secondary school and also worked in a legal firm as a clerical assistant.

Making an informed decision

After these varied experiences, she realised she enjoyed interacting with people and disliked desk-bound work. Hearing about podiatry from a job placement agency, she researched the field. Podiatry is a branch of healthcare devoted to the study, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle and lower limbs.

Intrigued, she undertook an observational attachment at Singapore General Hospital for a week.

“I enjoyed my interaction with patients and how we used problem- solving skills to help others,” she says.

“Given the growing ageing population as well as diabetes patients in Singapore, the need for podiatrists and other healthcare workers has never been more urgent. I wanted to join their ranks to help fulfil that need.”

She landed a place at La Trobe University’s Bachelor of Health Sciences and Master of Podiatric Practice course in 2008. That same year, she received the Health Science and Nursing Scholarship, and spent her next four years in Melbourne.

“Much of the learning on my course was done through case studies, discussions and workshops. There was a lot of hands-on work. We studied in an environment where students were encouraged to ask questions in class and there were no silly questions,” she says.

The scholarship has since been renamed the Healthcare Merit Award and is given by MOH Holdings, the holding company for Singapore’s public healthcare clusters.

Making a difference

The 27-year-old has been working as a podiatrist at National University Hospital (NUH) for four years. In that time, she worked in the hospital’s wound, sports, inpatient and nail surgery clinics, allowing her to practise her skills in different settings.

“I did podiatry hoping to make a difference to patients’ lives, which is what I’m doing now on a daily basis,” she says.

“I get a deep sense of satisfaction when my patients regain their mobility and health. I always find my work rewarding when I find healed ulcers under dressings or reports of pain-free walking and running.”

Ms Lee is happy to serve the six-year bond that comes with the scholarship. “Being bonded to NUH has allowed me to be mentored by one of the best podiatry teams in Singapore,” she says. “My seniors have been willing to teach as much as I am keen to learn.”

She enjoys the camaraderie at work so much that she spends her free time with colleagues, who are also now her friends.

In addition to her clinical duties, Ms Lee helps schoolleavers attached to the hospital for observations. She supervises them, ensuring they understand the job of a podiatrist and helping them make the right decision for their careers.

“These attachments allow students to experience how podiatrists in Singapore work in a clinical setting and the challenges they face on the job. It gives them a realistic view of what being a podiatrist is like, rather than reading or hearing about it from other people,” she says.

Ms Lee also advises scholarship applicants and jobseekers to consider what they are passionate about. “When choosing a career, pick the one that you love to do rather than the one you think you should,” she adds.