This interview is the first of the mini interview series featuring members of the 17th Council of the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN).
In this issue, we are interviewing Dr Ong Wah Ying, the appointed council member from Singapore. Dr Ong is also the Medical Director of Dover Park Hospice (DPH) and a council member of the Singapore Hospice Council (SHC), the national umbrella body.
What is something about you that will surprise people?
I used to be the squash captain back in high school! People find it surprising because I hardly exercise nowadays. But I still have a lot of hidden energy in me!
You learnt how to cook when spending 6 months (under the Ministry of Health’s Health Manpower Development Plan) with Southern Adelaide Palliative Care services. What was the experience like?
There was a smoke detector in the apartment and the fire engine will arrive if I do any heavy cooking. So I learned how to cook rice using the microwave oven and that is an achievement! I will mix it with my canned tuna and sometimes hard boiled eggs too!
If you were to choose an object to represent the journey in palliative care, what will it be and why?
I would think it will be a rubber band! Sometimes we need to stretch like a rubber band in order to tie things together. But at the same time, we need to be careful not to overstretch till we snap.
In order to do our line of work, we must try. We must go all the way. We are passionate people. Especially during the training years, most of the time we feel like we can do everything. But we really have to learn to find our own limits along the way and find out when to ask for help from team members. Sometimes we do not even recognise that we are fatigued. Many of us, including me, learned this the hard way.
A rubber band will return to its original shape after stretching. So my experience is to do more when it is time to do more and come back to the original shape. Look for more rubber bands if you need strength and learn to shoot if your target is far away!
Do you see any synergies in the roles you play at DPH, SHC and APHN? What are some areas you think Singapore can be more involved on a regional level?
Yes, definitely. I think APHN needs a greater presence in Singapore. It is important for us to be part of the collective voice for important issues, like stating our stand against euthanasia. The local community needs to know that we cannot be isolated. A lot more can be done in terms of bringing information and ideas across and back. We can collaborate to further extend our local education arms.
Having more involvement from medical students, trainees and various levels of staff will give them greater exposure and broaden their horizon. By being part of a common interest group, we can learn from each other, and be more aware of the updates of developments in services, education and research around the region. We can also leverage on existing knowledge and research to share with other countries, such as by hosting people for attachments and visitors from the region.
I believe that Singapore can contribute by sharing our experiences in non cancers like dementia, how we start-up services as well as new discoveries in the field through the APHN dialog platform. In addition to coordinating sharing by experts in our country, we can learn from experts in the region too. This is something I hope to build across the three organisations.
 The APHN Council consists of 7 members to be appointed by sectors on a rotation to be determined alphabetically according to the name of the sectors (Constitution 12.2a), 7 elected members, and 6 Co-opted member.
The article first appeared in the APHN newsletter Issue 33. Read here.
All information is correct at time of publishing.
By: Joyce Chee, APHN Executive