Timothy Gerard Lee operates sophisticated imaging equipment to produce images that help in the diagnosis of patients' conditions in his role as Radiographer at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, an institution under the National Healthcare Group (NHG). He is a Healthcare Merit Award scholarship recipient and holds a Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Radiography from Singapore Institute of Technology-Trinity College Dublin.
Most of us would have taken an X-ray or even a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Typically, the radiographer would adjust the position of your body, then he or she will head out of the room and press a few buttons. That’s probably the end of your interaction with the allied health professional.
While the contact is very brief, the work done by the radiographer plays a significant role in identifying a patient’s condition accurately. With this, the physician will then be able to put together an effective treatment plan for the patient.
The pivotal nature of the work drew Timothy Gerard Lee to specialise in the discipline. The 29-year-old is currently a Radiographer at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), where he is applying his knowledge and expertise to lead patients on the road to recovery.
We spoke with Timothy, a recipient of the Healthcare Merit Award for Diagnostic Radiography, on his fulfilling career so far and the things that motivate him every day.
How did you get interested in Diagnostic Radiography?
I had a senior in secondary school who was studying Diagnostic Radiography at Nanyang Polytechnic. She shared her experiences as a student and helped me understand radiography better. I gained an interest in it and decided to take a leap of faith in choosing radiography.
What are some of the opportunities that you have benefited from as a scholarship award recipient?
MOHH organises many scholar engagement sessions with scholars and senior leaders in the healthcare sector. They include dialogue sessions and focus group discussions on career and healthcare policy-related issues. There are also community involvement projects for scholars to volunteer and contribute back to the society.
Upon graduating and joining the workforce, I attended the Healthcare Orientation Programme organised by MOHH, where senior scholars would share their experiences on how they navigated and adapted to the workforce. The programme gives us some insights into our future work and presents an opportunity for us to connect with other scholars. It is helpful to us, as we kick-start/embark on our careers as healthcare scholars.
Why did you choose to start your career at TTSH?
I read stories of the heroic acts and selflessness of the healthcare workers in TTSH during the SARS outbreak. For that, I chose TTSH as I wanted to be able to play an active role should future outbreaks happen in Singapore again.
Share with us your journey as a radiographer so far.
I started off doing general radiography and was exposed to various sections through postings like outpatient and inpatient x-rays, emergency department, operating theatre, fluoroscopy, endoscopy centre and other areas.
After a few years, I had the opportunity to be trained in Computed Tomography (CT), which I’m really grateful for. Whether a radiographer is given the chance to be trained in a modality depends mainly if he has achieved a certain level of competence. Junior radiographers have to work hard and earn the opportunity based on merit.
Tell us about your main role at TTSH.
I operate various imaging equipment to produce images that help to diagnose conditions, guide surgical procedures and monitor treatment.
My everyday tasks include interacting with the patients and their caregivers, checking their medical condition and history, prepping them physically and mentally, explaining the imaging process to them, positioning them for the examination and manipulating the imaging equipment to get the desired images. I also work with other healthcare professionals like nurses, doctors, allied health professionals as well as administrative and support staff.
CT radiographers are designated as shift leaders for the department during non-office hours. I guide our juniors and coordinate with staff from the other departments should unexpected situations arise, such as the Covid-19 outbreak.
The recent outbreak must have been quite unforgettable for you and everyone at TTSH.
Definitely. It was two days before Chinese New Year when the first Covid-19 case in Singapore was announced. I was called back to be on duty and be part of a group of radiographers who were tasked to help in screening all suspect cases and their close contacts.
Being able to play a part in the initial effort to contain the virus was truly unforgettable. We did not know much about the virus then. Both patients and healthcare workers were very fearful at the prospect of being the next victims and nobody knew if there was even any chance of recovering from it and surviving.
In spite of our own apprehensions, my colleagues and I persevered with our duties. We also did our best to show empathy toward patients and let them know that they are in good hands. For many of us, it was a really proud moment to be serving in the healthcare sector.
What opportunities are there for radiographers at TTSH?
There are several tracks that one can choose to branch into as they progress in their career. They include clinical, education, management, informatics, research and application specialist tracks. I understand that individuals who are keen on policy-related matters, and have the aptitude and suitability, may eventually be given the opportunity to explore this path. Regardless, the possibilities for health professionals are not limited.
What would you say to convince someone to consider a career in the healthcare sector, or to take on a Healthcare Scholarship?
Join the healthcare sector or radiography in particular if you have the passion and the desire to play a vital and fulfilling role in healthcare. Radiography is interesting as you will have the chance to perform many different procedures and operate a variety of sophisticated medical imaging equipment. It is fulfilling and satisfying to know that radiography plays a crucial role in helping the patient get his or her medical condition or problem diagnosed.
Take on the Healthcare Scholarship if you would like to grow and develop yourself as a person and as a healthcare professional. There will be opportunities to enrich your experience as a student and to explore the various professional development options and possibilities even after graduation.