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Image of his future

In 2009, Mr Derek Lee, 27, visited Alexandra hospital for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan after dislocating his right shoulder.

He recalls: “I had been considering about my career options, wondering whether I should enrol in university or polytechnic and which courses of study to pursue.

“While I was lying still in the tunnel during the scan, suddenly, my mind became filled with questions.

“Who was the one doing the scanning? Why was it taking such a long time?

“What would my shoulder look like on the image?”

After reading up on MRI, he realised he was genuinely intrigued by radiography as a profession.

A radiographer is responsible for producing quality diagnostic images of the body, which provide evidence and data for doctors to interpret and diagnose illnesses and injuries.

Apart from X-rays, one can specialise in advanced modalities such as computed tomography (CT), MRI, nuclear medicine and ultrasound.

After graduating in 2014 from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Diploma in Diagnostic Imaging, Mr Lee was presented with a Healthcare Merit Award from the Ministry of Health.

The scholarship allows recipients to pursue nursing, pharmacy or allied health disciplines in local and overseas universities.

“The scholarship gave give me a good start to work in a public or restructured hospital,” he says. “I could focus on my studies without financial worry.”

He spent a year at the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he obtained an honours degree in radiography and medical imaging.

Mr Lee says the experience was a memorable yet challenging point in his life.

The curriculum included a five month clinical placement in the St Vincent’s Private Hospital, which gave him first-hand experience of what it was like working as a radiographer.

“I gained better understanding of factors such as culture and workplace etiquette,” he says.

Although the same semester was tough as he had to juggle the placement with other assignments and tests, Mr Lee says he appreciates the experience, as he got to met new friends and learn from mentors, whom he credits for helping to make the going easier for him.

Upon returning to Singapore in 2015, he joined the National University Hospital (NUH) as a radiographer.

Besides performing X-rays in outpatient and in-patient settings, he has also had stints at the accident and emergency department and operating theatres.

Mr Lee shares that every medical scenario offers its own fair share of challenges.

At NUH, he comes across a wide range of cases of varying complexity, which can affect different age groups, including new-borns and the elderly.

“It benefits my work when I can learn new things along the way.

“Last year, I was also tasked to guide radiography students who were on clinical placements in NUH,” he says.

Mr Lee is currently training to specialise in MRI work.

He explains: “The greatest challenge as an MRI radiographer is ensuring patient safety.

“The machine uses magnetic field and radio frequency waves to acquire images, so like a large magnet, it can attract ferrous objects and affect items such as watches or even pacemakers in the body.

“Hence it is always crucial to thoroughly screen patients and accompanying staff who enter the room.”

For those considering a scholarship in this field, Mr Lee advises: “Make an informed decision, take advantage of job shadowing opportunities or speak to someone in this field of work.

“If you know radiography is something you are passionate about, go for it.”