A new lease of life

If you think being in the health care and life sciences industry means working only with drugs and patients, think again. Singapore’s position as a medical hub of the region has opened a multitude of opportunities in this industry.

By Daphne Ong

No other industry gives people a second lease of life the same way the health care and life sciences industry does. It is all about improving the quality and duration of life, a role considered sacred in many cultures, in many parts of the world.

In this day and place, being in healthcare no longer means being the single healer in the village. The sheer size of the world population and the breakneck speed at which the industry is advancing means that it has spawned numerous sub-industries and specialties. These, in turn, have created an array of roles and job functions in various disciplines.

Health care provision and life sciences, while being part of the same family, each have broadly differing functions and goals.

Life sciences

Life sciences is, in a sense, the health industry’s evolving brain, continually seeking to find new and better ways to provide medical services while providing support to existing healthcare institutions. Singapore’s push to boost its status as a biomedical hub means that the industry is going nowhere but up.

When people think of life sciences, they usually think of men and women in white coats spending their days bent over test tubes. While research and development (R&D) certainly does form an important and prominent sector of life sciences, it is only part of a much larger picture.

Drug production and promotion forms a formidable bulk of the industry. The very presence of pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline in Singapore is already an indicator that drug production and promotion are big activities here. And when you include other large players and many smaller pharmaceutical enterprises, you realise just how expansive this part of the industry is.

The production of drugs is a significant segment of Singapore’s manufacturing sector, providing countless jobs in specialised manufacturing functions as well as R&D. R&D professionals are especially valued and pharmaceutical companies and government agencies like A*STAR unashamedly woo talents with attractive job prospects and scholarships.

While many people in the industry do work as researchers and innovators, a large proportion of them also pour their experience into marketing and education. In the arena of pharmaceuticals, marketing is an inextricable part of drug production. A good proportion of a pharmaceutical company’s production expenses go into marketing the drugs.

Experienced doctors and professionals often come into play to assure quality and deliver reliable information about the drugs. Many speak at conferences to educate other professionals on the various discoveries and related developments. Some of them move up the ladder to hold managerial roles and help guide strategy and direction. Many of the highest-ranking managers in such companies have their roots in medical practice or R&D.

However, it doesn’t take a doctor or pharmacist to enter the industry. In fact, the bulk of jobs in the industry comprise of non-medical professionals. Lay professionals can choose from sales, public relations, marketing, administrative and managerial roles galore. This is not counting the numerous supporting agencies that provide services like event organisation, editorial services, advertising and more.

Health Care

Provision of health care is the frontline of the industry, dealing directly with individuals seeking medical attention. Apart from doctors, surgeons and specialists, other professionals active in providing health care include therapists, pharmacists and nurses.

Some therapists are not medical doctors, but are specially trained to aid the physical or mental healing process. Physical therapists are the most well known among therapists, and there’s a whole range of different types of therapy, treating conditions from carpal tunnel syndrome to slipped discs and damaged nerves.

Speech therapy is also an increasingly popular career choice. Psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors form another category of therapists, specialising in the treatment of mental and emotional diffi culties. While psychiatrists are medical doctors, psychologists and counsellors are usually not, though, as with physical therapists, they receive special training.

Pharmacists’ basic function is to dispense medication and guide patients in their correct use. Most pharmacists begin their career with this function. Some add guidance and medical counselling to their job scope — in some pharmacies, you can even get nutrition and weight management advice! As they advance in their career, some move into the corporate aspects of the pharmacy industry.

Often referred to as the “sisters (and brothers) of mercy”, nurses are hailed as the noblest and most humble professionals in health care. Their touch and expertise have the most significant impact on the welfare of patients in hospitals. Clinics will not be able to run efficiently without good nursing staff. Within nursing itself, there are various specialisations to choose from, such as anaesthesia, neonatal, geriatric and psychiatric nursing.

A medical hub
Singapore is becoming an increasingly good place for an individual to work in healthcare or life sciences. Due to the recent push to promote Singapore’s status as a medical hub,
medical tourism is fl ourishing and the sector is growing at an impressive rate.

With the Singapore Tourism Board (and other government agencies) behind it, this drive is drawing hundreds of thousands of foreigners who seek medical treatment. Moreover, it is not just our regional neighbours who are flocking here for treatment. Medical tourists from around the world, including Europe and the US, are also making their way here.

Singapore’s high quality and wide variety of available medical care are what attract these visitors. Apart from Singapore’s reputation for clean and excellent medical infrastructure, several high-profi le medical events have launched the country into the healthcare spotlight, such as groundbreaking cancer research and the separation of the Korean conjoined twins.

The unlikely consequence is that almost everything to do with tourism has become related to the healthcare industry! Many medical tourists also take into consideration the leisure value of being in Singapore. Hospitals know this, and some take pains to provide more than just medical services to their international patients. Some install customer care personnel to take care of these patients, and even arrange tours and entertainment for them. This means that, these days, you may even land yourself a job in a hospital, not just taking care of patients but planning travel itineraries as well!

With an open mind and with a little research of your own, you will find that the health care and life sciences industry holds a world of job opportunities. All you have to do is

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