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Putting her best foot forward

Ms Daphne Tan was keen to pursue a career in the health sciences after she graduated from Hwa Chong Institution.

She loved meeting people and hearing their stories, so she felt that getting to do the same for her patients while helping them, was a bonus.

Her interest in craft work — knitting and jewellery-making — also played a part in her decision on which area to specialise.

Ms Tan says: “I was interested in speech therapy, dietetics and podiatry, and I picked podiatry as I felt it was the most ‘hands-on’.”

“Podiatry needs a lot of dexterity when it comes to debridement as well as insole-making and modifications, which makes the work even more dynamic for me.”

As podiatry degrees are only available overseas,she decided to apply for the Ministry Of Health (MOH) Health Sciences Scholarship in 2008.

Ms Tan explains that the scholarship helped to ease a financial burden that would otherwise have been huge for her parents, and focus on her studies and enjoy her time at university.

A step into independence
Miss Tan opted for a Bachelor of Health Sciences with Master of Podiatric Practice (Hons.) qualification at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. She found the experience of being overseas on her own challenging, yet empowering.

She says: “It’s the first step into adulthood where you truly have to fend for yourself and take care of your own needs.”

“On a normal day, it isn’t that difficult, but the times you fall sick are when things get rough. Thank goodness for good friends who helped along the way.”

Ms Tan is also thankful for the clinical placements she did during her course. The chatty patients in Australia helped the self-professed shy student learn to open up and become more outspoken, in order to build a rapport with them quickly. This helped her prepare for working life as it built up her confidence when speaking to people from all walks of life.

A steady path
Today, Ms Tan is a senior podiatrist at National University Hospital.

Although her current job can be tough at times, as she often deals with patients in a lot of physical pain, the 29-year-old believes that the key to longevity in this career is to empathise with patients while maintaining a professional distance to prevent burnout.

“Learning how to soothe patients with words is also an important skill to have,” she adds.

Ms Tan recommends healthcare or health sciences scholarships “for those with a passion to serve in the health industry and pursue their studies without too much stress financially”.

She also appreciated the pre-departure activities that enabled her to network with students of other healthcare disciplines.

“If you are certain of the path you wish to take, this scholarship can aid and enrich your experience before you step into the career of your choice,”  she says.