Changing Lives With Prosthetics & Orthotics
Nigel Wong shares about life and limbs.
Why did you choose this scholarship?
When I chose to study in Scotland four years ago, I already knew that my calling was to serve in the field of healthcare. And I knew that this specialisation means a huge financial burden. Applying for the MOH Holdings (MOHH) Scholarship opened the door for me to fulfill my aspiration to be trained in this important area with no financial worries.
Why did you choose to do this course?
I am in the final year of BSc (Hons) Prosthetics & Orthotics (P&O) at the University of Strathclyde. Although I wanted healthcare, P&O was not my initial choice. However, my parents, my sister-in-law, who is an occupational therapist, coupled with the first-hand experience of working with a kind prosthetist/orthotist managed to steer me into this choice. I had initially thought that this was a purely technical job and that there was minimal patient interaction. How wrong I was!
The prosthetist/orthotist I shadowed mentioned something in passing that stuck with me ever since. He said, ‘We may not be doctors to save lives at critical moments but we can change them for the better.’ That struck a chord within me and led me to ultimately choose this profession because my passion lies in helping the less fortunate ones. On hindsight, I really find joy in this service, especially about getting people back on their feet again, literally and figuratively, taking one step at a time. If I can make a difference in just one person’s life with what I have been taught, it would be sufficient. A fascinating aspect of P&O is that most of our patients are for life. Many people have been seeing their prosthetist/orthotist from childhood to adulthood. Finally, I really love sports and am intrigued by motion and mobility so this course suited me brilliantly as it is rich in biomechanics! All in all, I believe this was the path God laid for me and as I took that step of faith, I have never looked back.
Describe some challenges or common misconceptions of this profession.
There is hardly any misconception because we are hardly known. Haha! There is a huge lack of prosthetists and orthotists globally, not just in Singapore. Even within the healthcare community, few truly recognise our scope of practice and skills and hence we are not utilised to the best of our abilities. A misconception, even among other healthcare professionals, is that we are merely technicians or product sellers. True enough, there are P&O technicians who are trained in the technical work and their help let us focus on the clinical aspects.
On this note, finance is the other impediment to P&O, as the logistics and costs of setting up a P&O department are heftier than other allied healthcare services. We require technicians, workshops and copious space for machines etc.
Furthermore, there is a lack of research in this field as compared to the other medical professions, which has undermined the confidence in P&O. Being the smallest kid in the block, challenges are aplenty but times seem to be changing and things are getting better!
What kinds of career and personal developmental opportunities does your company provide for its scholars?
MOHH has been awesome and supported me in my pursuit of clinical placements outside of Glasgow so as to broaden my clinical experiences and to observe other health services in the world. They also provided opportunities for us to go to many conferences, locally and internationally! They have community programmes and mission works both locally and abroad, planning camps and activities for fresh incoming scholars. The scholarship officers and staff are friendly and ever so helpful.
Describe the activities and most memorable things that happened in your university life?
There are so many opportunities for me to see the world. From scaling mountains in rugged Scotland to fishing in the open sea in Scandinavia, from living in the bustling and truly cosmopolitan city of London to the quiet countryside of Sweden with horses trotting about on the roads, from receiving kindness from complete strangers who don’t speak English to being on the receiving end of subtle racism… I have been blessed with the experience that will last me a lifetime.
If I have to choose three which are most memorable, the first would be seeing my patient, post-amputation, taking his first steps on a prosthesis that I made for him from scratch during my clinical placement. The second would be returning to Singapore after being away for a year. The third would be my trip to Cape Town for the 2017 International P&O Conference, which highlighted the global lack of P&O services and seeing the daylight corruption and segregation in Africa. All filled me with indescribable emotions.
As an oversea student, cooking is something every student will have to pick up, as there are no Kopitiams or mothers to cook for you! For me personally, I thoroughly enjoy the cooking and get my stress relief doing it. My other favourite interests are attending and serving in the local church, and hiking in the Scottish outdoors!
Any tips on how to choose a university?
Get to know people doing your prospective course or profession and ask them for their advice and experiences. As with many other things in this day and age, Google will be the next greatest ally you can find. Scour for university reviews and prospectus. In the health professions, there will usually be aboard, council or regulatory organisation that will provide information on recognised universities. P&O, in particular, has an international body that categorises the schools and provides respective accreditation.
Any words of advice for aspiring scholars?
For aspiring scholars wanting to join the healthcare industry, do take the time to reflect on yourself, your passions, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, etc. Job shadowing experiences are invaluable and hopefully, you’ll get to understand the hard work behind the professions, stripped of the glamour.
If you would like a unique profession that is a bridge between engineering and healthcare, P&O is the place to be in. With countless new innovative technologies coming up, this profession will only get more interesting.
Love what you do and love others. Call it passion or charity, doing something you truly love will lead you to pour that 200 percent into it.
NIGEL WONG YONG JIE
Healthcare Merit Award
(previously known as Health Science and Nursing Scholarship
Now: Pursuing BSc (Hons) in Prosthetics & Orthotics from University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
From: Meridian JC