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  • Volume 377 1719 (2011)
  • May 21, 2011

Melissa’s TLS 10 Question Challenge!

Melissa Kah Poh Loh

1) Why did you decide to study medicine?

I have always wanted to do medicine since I was young. Initially it was very much of the desire to learn about human anatomy and pharmacology so that I would be able to accurately diagnose an illness and deliver appropriate treatment. Every medicine has its downsides and it was in my utmost desire to discover a perfect treatment. As time goes by, I began to learn that medicine is never perfect. However, it did not stop me from pursuing medicine. You will never know what will happen in this constantly evolving field.

2) Can you share some things that you wish that someone had told you before you applied to study medicine?

Getting into medical school is not good enough. Considering the current competition in medical field, you need to achieve as much as you can. This requires extreme hard work during holidays. The easiest things to start with would be voluntary work and research activities during junior years followed by electives during senior years. Put some effort into publishing your work in journals and presenting in international conferences. I wish someone had told me this to get me prepared.

3) What profession would you be in if you weren’t in medicine?

If I weren’t studying medicine, the profession I would be thinking of is biomedical engineer. I am really glad that I am doing medicine now.

4) What is your biggest motivation?

None of my family members work in the medical field, in fact, they are all involved in business. Being the unique one always encouraged me to strive harder.

5) What are you most interested in so far and why?

I am extremely interested in oncology. My research focus is in cancer, and it has never failed to attract my attention. Despite the continuous progression in cancer research, it remains one of the diseases with a high mortality. It leads to a terrible outcome, both to the patient and the family. The complexity of cancer is a great challenge to be pursued.

6) What has been your most difficult module so far and why?

So far behavioural science/psychiatry has been quite dreadful for me. The human brain is the most complex organ and we are still far away from understanding everything about it. Psychiatry illnesses are comparatively difficult to diagnose with minimal tests to perform.

7) What is the most memorable positive moment in your medical studies so far?

I was awarded the Barker Prize in Anatomy for a dissection project carried out over a period of 2 months during the summer holidays. It involved the dissection of a particular anatomical region, which in my case was the ‘Anterior Triangle of the Neck’. The winners are acknowledged with their names carved in the anatomy room as well as a medal given during a prize giving ceremony.

8) What is the worst horror story in your medical studies to date?

During my second year, I participated in a student exchange programme to a sister university for a period of 4 months. The first few weeks were difficult due to a distinct cultural difference and language barrier. It was hard to adapt initially although it gradually became enjoyable and the experience was enlightening, but you do have to bear the unbearable first!

9) Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

a) the wishful thinking version

Along with my brothers’ architectural and engineering skills, I wish to build a new hospital. There would be a specialised centre dedicated to cancer care and treatment with cutting edge research facilities. I hope that it would be a centre of excellence for the cancer care as well as other diseases. I certainly hope for funding and support to make this dream come true. I am also inspired to provide care to the poor who are in need of medical treatment.

b) the perhaps slightly more realistic version


Realistically, I will pursue a residency in internal medicine and a subsequent fellowship in oncology. I will achieve a doctorate in research as well in order to become both a clinical and research oncologist.

10) Can you share some tips/advice for others

a) wanting to study medicine

Think about the reasons you want to do medicine. If you are really convinced about that, go ahead and do it no matter how many rejections and disappointment you receive. You should be prepared for the extremely competitive nature with medicine and it is very common for you to hit a wall and get stuck along the way. Get some advice and support from your family and friends, do not give up easily. Medicine should never be your second choice!

b) already studying medicine

Learn to be a good doctor, there is no point having a big list of achievements but with corrupted morality. Be professional, be attentive to your patients, be polite to your professors and lecturers, and most importantly be proactive! You can always achieve much more by asking!

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