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Radiating hope and care

Receiving the Ministry of Health’s Health Science Scholarship in 2011 enabled Mr Jason Chan Weisiang to save on a costly self-funded overseas study trip to further his education.

“I wanted to go overseas and gain some exposure on how healthcare professionals in other countries work, and learn about their healthcare system,” he says.

The 30-year-old scholar graduated with a bachelor’s degree in medical radiation science (radiation therapy) from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia in 2012.

The radiation therapist currently works at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS).

The Health Science Scholarship, which comes with a six-year bond, provides allowances for travel, lodgings and clinical placements, in addition to full tuition cover.

The Health Science Scholarship is now known as Healthcare Merit Scholarship. All Healthcare Scholarships are centrally awarded and managed by MOH Holdings (MOHH) on behalf of the Singapore public healthcare sector.

Prior to receiving his scholarship, Mr Chan was already bonded with NCCS, which had earlier sponsored his studies for a diploma in radiation therapy at Nanyang Polytechnic.

Being offered the scholarship meant that he could serve both bonds concurrently, which works out to six years.

“The scholarship served as a recognition of the hard work and effort that I put into my studies during my polytechnic days.

“To my family, this scholarship was a huge load off their minds,” says Mr Chan, whose father is a cook in a canteen and mother works at a postal company.

An Ally For Cancer Patients

Now into his sixth year as a radiation therapist, Mr Chan makes use of cutting-edge technology to deliver precise radiation doses to cancer patients in a safe environment.

He explains: “A patient has to undergo many stages before receiving the actual radiation treatment itself. These include consultation, fabrication of immobilisation equipment, simulation, treatment planning and, finally, radiation therapy.

“A radiation therapist has to be familiar with all these procedures, and we rotate aroundthese stations on a regular basis.”

The most challenging part of his job involves witnessing the pain that patients go through during cancer treatments.

He says: “While patients usually do not experience side effects during the first two weeks of their treatment, depending on the treatment sites and the radiation dose prescribed, the onset of side effects can be uncomfortable and, sometimes, even painful.

“Together with our nurses and doctors, I try my best to help patients to alleviate some of these side effects by pre-empting and educating them on pain management.”

Inspiring Trust

Challenges aside, a job in healthcare can bring great rewards, often on a personal level, says Mr Chan.

He enjoys interacting with patients, especially those who may need daily treatment for up to two months. He finds that, over time, they tend to put their trust in him as they confide in him.

He says: “Our conversation sometimes goes beyond treatment- related topics, and even delves into personal matters, depending on the patient’s comfort level.

“To me, this is how a good patient-practitioner relationship should be established, and this is where I get my greatest sense of job satisfaction.”

Currently, he is involved in introducing ultrasound guided radiation therapy treatment to prostate cancer patients.

This involves utilising ultrasound to track prostate motion during radiation therapy to ensure the prostate remains within the target volumes that were contoured during treatment planning.

Having made the rounds and learnt the ropes, Mr Chan hopes to stay relevant by keeping up with the ever-changing and sophisticated treatment techniques in radiation therapy.

“I would like to embark on meaningful workflow, protocols and research projects that are patient-centric as I strive to improve the patient treatment journey,” he adds.

Mr Chan advises those who are considering a scholarship to take the time to contemplate this huge commitment, as the bond period can be long.

He says: “Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to consider it, and ask yourself if this job is really for you. If you like the job, six years may feel like six months. If you don’t, it may feel like 60 years.

“I am lucky that I love what I do, and that I look forward to going to work every day.”