His path to medical technology may have been a tad unconventional.
But when Dr Wijaya Martanto speaks of his passion in medical device development, it becomes apparent that his transition from engineering to the medical field was only natural.
The 39-year-old had obtained both his first degree and doctorate in Chemical Engineering from American universities. He then spent about five years working at tech giant Intel Corporation, as a Senior Process Engineer.
But after all those years away from his parents, who are now in their 70s and living in Indonesia, Dr Martanto decided to leave the US and move closer to them.
Out of all the higher learning options available in the region, he chose Duke-NUS Medical School as “it is the only graduate medical school in Singapore that provides joint-degrees from Duke University (USA) and National University of Singapore, and both are highly reputable”.
“Duke-NUS has strong clinical and in-class curriculum, and I had the privilege to be taught and mentored by faculty with a wealth of experience and expertise. And Duke-NUS’s partnership with the country’s largest public healthcare cluster, SingHealth, also provided us a spectrum of learning opportunities with aplenty resources,” says Dr Martanto, who is now an Analytical and Computing Technology Clinical Researcher at the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT).
“The school equipped me with a strong foundation in clinical, research and professional aspects.”
His unique work experience at Intel and his PhD graduate research experience in medical devices (microneedles) earned him a full scholarship from the Indonesian Scholars Program for his medical doctorate course at Duke-NUS.
When asked about what makes Duke-NUS stand out, Dr Martanto cites the strong support network and diversity. Even today, years after his graduation, he still is in touch with faculty members and ex-schoolmates. “We are one big Duke-NUS family.”
And that family is one that’s diverse, comprising students hailing from different parts of the world, bringing to the table their diverse education and work experiences. “The diverse mix of faculty and students provided me with a better perspective and expertise,” says Dr Martanto.
On top of learning from Duke-NUS faculty members, Dr Martanto was given the opportunity to spend his first-year summer holiday understudying at Stanford University, and subsequently, to undertake a six-month clinical posting at Duke University in North Carolina in the US.
“It was an eye-opening experience, learning from world-renowned physicians and researchers during my time at Duke-NUS as well as the universities in the US,” he recalls. “During my clinical posting, I met a toddler whose face was deformed because of oral cancer, but she remained cheerful. Her positivity and resilience made me even more determined to harness my engineering research background and my medical knowledge to transform healthcare.”
Dr Martanto works with the Data and Technology team at MOHT, where he is also the lead for the Mental Health initiative. The Data and Technology team works with healthcare and industry partners to develop system-level solutions, using data, artificial intelligence and technology as key enablers to support the development of new healthcare delivery models.
With the constant technological advancements and innovations today, Dr Martanto foresees an increasing need for more individuals with a combined MD and PhD degree to drive impactful changes in healthcare. His advice to those considering taking a similar career path: “Listen to your heart and do what you believe is right.