Desire to help patients drives health-care scholars

Mr Calvin Lam, 25, and Ms Chua Siong Yin, 19.

Mr Calvin Lam, 25, made up his mind to become a speech therapist after seeing first-hand the difficulties faced by stroke patients in communicating with their families.

He made the observation during his one-month internship at the Singapore General Hospital last year, where he shadowed medical staff.

He has also served as a volunteer with autistic children, but said: "There's a more acute need to help the elderly folk."

Mr Lam was among a bumper crop of 176 students to be awarded health-care scholarships this year by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Health Holdings. This was up from the 115 scholarships given out last year.

Ministry of Health Holdings is the holding company of Singapore's public health-care assets.

The scholarships were awarded to those intending to pursue a wide range of disciplines, from nursing to podiatry, and were given out during an event held at the Furama RiverFront Singapore hotel yesterday.

Mr Lam, who graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in English recently, said he intends to pursue a master's programme in speech language pathology using the scholarship, either at a local or overseas university.

At the event, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said there was a need to invest in human capital and attract top talent, in order to meet the growing need for health care amid Singapore's ageing population.

"We need to expand our health-care infrastructure and... increase our manpower capacity and capabilities," she said.

Two new hospitals - the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Sengkang General Hospital - are scheduled to open in 2014 and 2018, respectively.

Dr Khor said that such scholarships will help to raise the profile of various health-care professions. This was certainly the case for scholarship recipient Chua Siong Yin, 19, who only learnt of occupational therapy through a scholarship fair last year.

She decided to find out more about the job, and even opted to shadow occupational therapists at hospitals earlier this year.

Ms Chua said: "I saw how rewarding it could be to have patients recover smoothly with your help."

She plans to head to Australia in February to obtain a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy.

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