MOH: Putting Her Best Foot Forward

Podiatry is not just about healing feet; for one MOH scholar, it’s also about touching lives.

By Azhar Jalil

“To me, podiatry is not a healthcare profession where there’s a strict ‘patient-clinician’ relationship,” says podiatrist Chelsea Law, 28.

“In many ways, patients often refer to us more personally – as a friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and even a confidante,” she reveals.

Given that many of her patients are diabetics seeking treatment for debilitating foot ulcers, such rapport is undeniably a valuable crutch for effective treatment.

“In my position, I have the opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives by providing my concern and care for them,” she says.

The road to success
Chelsea has always had an interest in medicine and wound care. As such, the MOH Health Science Scholarship (aka previously known as the PSC-MOH Overseas Specialist Award (Paramedical) in the past) served as the perfect vehicle for pursuing her ambition to be in healthcare. Why the study of feet in particular? “My mum’s heel pain spurred me to take up podiatry,” she explains.

The scholarship sent her to the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom (UK) where she read Podiatry in a Bachelor of Science programme and achieved First-Class Honours at the end of three years.

While the road to success is never easy, Chelsea counts on the support she received from the Ministry of Health (MOH) as crucial for having paved the way.

“MOH helped with applying for the course on my behalf and also other administrative matters such as visa applications,” she says. “For someone fresh out of school, any help is more than appreciated.”

The ministry also linked Chelsea up with her peers and fellow health science scholars studying in the UK, a network which she found essential.

“This friendship proved really vital for us who were attending school miles away from home. The support we gave one another was invaluable during the course of our studies. Of course, not forgetting the times we visited each other in the UK to have a good time catching up and relating each of our own experiences,” she recalls.

From all walks of life
Coming back to Singapore after her studies, Chelsea found that the scholarship had given her career a head start, even if that meant having higher expectations to meet.

“Thankfully, the added pressure and expectations have spurred me on to achieve what I did not think I could have, while helping to maintain my professional working attitude,” she quips.

At Alexandra Hospital (AH) where Chelsea is a Senior Podiatrist, this attitude translates into a friendly approach which in turn makes it easier for patients to relate their concerns to her.

“While treating patients, I try to put them at ease by discussing day-to-day ‘kopitiam’ topics, so they won’t concentrate too much on the treatment which makes a lot of people nervous,” she explains.

When she’s not on her rounds in the orthopaedic ward, Chelsea attends to about 20 patients daily at the hospital’s outpatient clinic. Aside from diabetes, she also sees biomechanical- and sports-related cases with patients of varying ages from all walks of life.

“With the older folks, I’ll try to speak in their preferred language or dialect as they definitely feel more comfortable with somebody who can relate to them linguistically. They will also be more open to ideas that we propose to them in terms of managing their conditions,” she explains.

However, language is still a common barrier, Chelsea admits. To overcome this, she has an in-clinic interpreter to ensure clear communication between patient and podiatrist.

At the same time, she has also taken the effort to learn various tongues. She now counts English, Mandarin, Hokkien and Teochew in her repertoire, while currently brushing up on Malay, Cantonese, Hainanese and Hock Chew.

“Sometimes, it’s the personal touch that patients are looking for,” she shares. “The joy of helping patients heal keeps me going.”

Keeping current
To stay relevant, Chelsea attends seminars to keep abreast of the latest management strategies and developments in other medical disciplines.

On top of her duties, she is also pursuing a master’s in Podiatry with Diabetes as part of the Health Manpower Development Programme jointly supported by MOH and AH.

The degree will equip her with current knowledge on the management of diabetic foot problems while also making her a more informed consumer of medical literature.

“This will allow me to relate to my clinical practice and provide the best evidence-based medicine for my patients,” she says.

No regrets
“I have never regretted choosing this scholarship,” says Chelsea.

“The experiences and friendships that I have gained from my overseas education and the independence I learnt as a student away from home are indeed valuable to me. These are things that cannot be bought and will stay with me throughout my professional and personal life.”

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