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Getting to Know Dr Goh Han Meng

"To treat my patients as individuals and families who have to cope with the impact of an illness on their lives and routines, and to always put their interest first."
Dr Goh Han Meng is a paediatrician practising at Parkway East Hospital. He has special interests in paediatric surgery, orthopaedics, neurosurgery and ENT (ears, nose, throat).
  • Specialty:

    • Paediatric Medicine
  • Qualifications

    • MBBS (NUS, Singapore) 2000
    • MRCPCH (Paed) (RCPCH, United Kingdom) 2006
    • M Med (Paed) (NUS, Singapore) 2006
  • Languages Spoken

    • English

Getting to Know Dr Goh Han Meng

Getting to Know Dr Goh Han Meng

Q: What motivated you to become a doctor, and how did you decide to become a paediatrician?

I have a family doctor who looked after my family from before I was born, and he is still looking after my elderly parents even though we no longer live close to his clinic. He impressed me as a child with his warmth and genuine care, and interest in my family that extended beyond the realm of medical illness.

#readmore His breadth of knowledge was extensive, given his training in rural districts in Malaysia before he came to Singapore. And when I told him in primary school that I aspired to be like him, he would ask after my progress throughout my secondary, college and varsity days. I recall the tips he gave me to give me confidence ahead of my interviews for enrolment in medical school. Even after I had embarked on advanced specialist training in paediatrics, he would always have a word of encouragement for me.

The strangest thing is that I had never considered becoming a paediatrician throughout my undergraduate medical school days. It was only after a rotation as a houseman in the Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) paediatric medicine department that caused a change of heart.

During the posting, I was involved in the care of an autistic patient who was being treated for leukaemia. Owing to my callow youth, I was not as sensitive and understanding as I should have been of the tremendous difficulties his parents had experienced.

They were, however, gracious enough to forgive my unkind attitude, and accepted my apology. While my first thought was that I'd never do paediatrics ever again, a deeper reflection on the incident taught me what 5 years of medical school couldn't quite touch - empathy and compassion.

After that, I underwent my final houseman rotation with a colleague whose family is still dear to mine. He taught me the meaning of commitment and attention to detail. With that, my interest in paediatrics grew and with further rotations through neonatology and paediatric surgery before enlisting to serve the balance of my full-time national service, God made it clear to me what He meant me to do.

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Q: What kind of conditions do you treat, or specialise in treating?

As a general paediatrician, I manage varying conditions ranging from acute febrile illnesses to chronic conditions like eczema, but always looking after every child on a holistic basis. My interest in sports medicine as well as my experience in managing a large family (I have 5 kids) ground the medical aspect of illness in the reality of everyday life.

#readmore I previously worked in the Children's Emergency Department of KKH and I still do some shifts there on a weekly basis. It presents a very different battleground and spectrum of cases from the more sedate office paediatrics, with a mix of acute emergencies and trauma requiring a working knowledge of other specialties including paediatric surgery, orthopaedics, neurosurgery and ENT.

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Q: Could you share your philosophy in treating patients?

To treat my patients as individuals and families who have to cope with the impact of an illness on their lives and routines, and to always put their interest first.

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Q: How does a typical day look like for you working as a paediatrician?

In the mornings, I do ward rounds to see any inpatients before starting my clinic at 9am. On all weekdays except Thursdays, I will also have either an afternoon or an evening clinic. Thursday afternoon is the time I set aside to do shifts in Children's Emergency at KKH. Saturday mornings are typically the busiest sessions as most parents have weekends off and will take the opportunity to make appointments for reviews and immunisations.

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Q: What are some of the most interesting or fulfilling parts of your job?

The most fulfilling aspect is the privilege of watching the babies whom I've cared for at one time or other grow up, and having them tell me that they want to be a paediatrician like me. It is not easy to gain the trust of these little ones, but once it is established, the doctor-parent-patient relationship becomes all the more rewarding.

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Q: Briefly describe a particularly difficult case that you successfully treated using your expertise.

I had a little girl who had severe eczema as an infant. I was working in Ang Mo Kio back then, and she remained under my care though I couldn't do very much to make her eczema better. I even had a paediatric dermatology specialist from the restructured hospital co-manage her with me.

#readmore At one point, we were considering cytotoxic intravenous medication (akin to what is used in chemotherapy) because of her multiple disease flares and severe itch that was pretty much unbearable for her and her family.

They trusted me enough to continue to see me despite the heartache of having to see her suffer through multiple frequent episodes of exacerbations. However, time proved to be the ultimate remedy and as she entered her primary school years, the situation improved tremendously.

I would like to think that the time spent with the family, understanding their concerns and sharing in their little successes and frequent setbacks made the condition a little more bearable for the young lady as well as her parents.

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