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He helps patients find their footing

A short stint shadowing a physiotherapist at work exposed Mr Jason Peh, 29, to allied health professions and sparked his interest in the field of occupational therapy.

“It is a mix of science and arts, using medical knowledge, and creative adaptations and equipment to regain function. The focus on a person’s goals in physical rehabilitation really got me,” he says.

So he applied for the Alexandra Health health science scholarship after graduating from National Junior College. He went on to do his undergraduate studies in health sciences and a Master of Occupational Therapy Practice at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, from 2010 to 2013.

Mr Peh greatly enjoyed his university days in Melbourne as it gave him the foundation to understand how body parts, muscles and nerves work together through a human cadaver.

“It opened my eyes to the intricate nature of the human body, and I’m able to understand my patients better as I had a glimpse of what takes place beneath the skin,” he says.

The internships also gave him valuable experience. One was a home-based rehabilitation setting where he learnt how to be resourceful in using adaptive devices and specialised assistive aids to enable people to live independently in their homes.

Working in the acute stroke unit in a hospital, he learnt valuable soft skills from his supervisor, who also inspired him to engage with difficult patients. Another attachment took him out of his comfort zone and taught him how to understand the needs of mental health patients.

Today, Mr Peh is almost into his fifth year working at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as a senior occupational therapist.

He is in the community care team where he makes home visits to discharged patients — it can be up to five in a day — and provides training to the patient’s caregiver or family member. He also modifies their home environment, prescribes adaptive equipment, and adjusts their daily routines to ensure safety in their homes.

Mr Peh also runs a motorised-aid clinic twice a week. This involves assessing a patient’s ability to drive a motorised scooter and teaching them how to navigate lifts and public transport.

One other skill that he has gained on the job is picking up the Malay language from colleagues and patients to communicate better with more people.

He is also starting a group with home and community occupational therapists to pool resources, share experiences and support one another, to ultimately benefit patients.

“The job can be physically and emotionally demanding as you’re investing in people’s lives and dealing with the fragility of life, but it is a rewarding career.”

Mr Peh recommends this scholarship to those interested in pursuing occupational therapy as a career.

“It has enabled me to immerse myself in a different culture, step out of my comfort zone, learn more about the healthcare system in Australia, and appreciate what we have and can achieve in Singapore.”