I am Doraemon to children

Dr Christelle Tan says she's a guardian to children, with a magical solution for every situation, whether it's medication or toys.
Dr Christelle Tan says she's a guardian to children, with a magical solution for every situation, whether it's medication or toys.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

The Pro

Q I specialise in paediatrics because...

A Children are adorable. Keeping a child in good health goes a long way in helping him grow up to be a healthy adult.

I have seen how quickly children recover from major illnesses and bounce back to life. This never fails to amaze me and I find it very fulfilling to work with them.

Q If I were to give an analogy for what I do, I'd be...

  • Bio Box


    Age: 30

    Occupation: Specialist in paediatric medicine and consultant, Raffles Specialists-Holland V

    Dr Tan has been a paediatrician for seven years and has gone on various health and medical missions overseas. These include disaster relief work in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan struck, as well as training midwives in neonatal resuscitation in Timor Leste.

    She loves children and enjoys empowering parents with knowledge.

    "It can be very stressful for the family when a child falls ill, even with a simple common cold," said Dr Tan, who is attached and looking forward to starting a family.

    "It is fulfilling to be able to tell parents when and how their child will get better and to explain what symptoms to look out for, in case things do not go as predicted."

    Dr Tan has an elder sister who is also a doctor. Her father is a civil engineer and her mother a retired teacher.

A Doraemon. I am a companion and guardian to children, like the famous Japanese robot cat is to the little boy Nobita in the cartoon series.

I'm also a friend to the family and someone with a magical solution for every situation, be it medication to treat an illness, or toys, gadgets and songs to keep the children entertained.

Q I come across all types of cases from...

A Healthy babies getting regular checks to critically-ill children suffering from chronic illnesses.

Many people think paediatrics is about baby checks and vaccinations. But paediatricians actually manage a wide range of conditions, including children with neurological impairment like cerebral palsy; chronic kidney, liver or heart disease; and cancers like leukaemia.

I have done volunteer work in other countries, where I have seen tetanus cases and people with untreated end-stage leukaemia. They remind me of how fortunate we are in Singapore to be able to seek medical help and get treatment early.

Q A typical day for me would be...

A Saying a short prayer upon waking up to remind me of the things I have - good health and a job I enjoy - to prepare for the day ahead.

I spend the day handling cases. Every encounter is challenging because it is never the same.

In the evening, I'll look through the list of patients I had seen the day before and give some of them a call to make sure they are doing well at home.

The highlight of my day is when I hear from parents that their child has recovered, and many of them appreciate the call.

Q One little-known fact about my field is...

A It pains us to put a child through a painful procedure.

Many times, we may look professional, calm and even detached when we explain and carry out procedures in front of worried parents.

In truth, we hide a lot of our feelings and vulnerabilities and we care more than we can show.

Q Patients who get my goat are...

A There are none. It is difficult to get mad at a child who is ill.

Sometimes, parents of patients may not agree with us but once we understand the rationale behind their thinking, we can work towards a common goal.

Q The thing that puts a smile on my face is...

A A hug from a child - it says so much. Sometimes, I meet patients along the corridor and they will just run up and give me a hug. It melts my heart.

Q It breaks my heart when...

A Parents insist on refusing the standard treatment for their child, not because of cost issues, but because of their misperceptions of certain therapies.

It can be vaccinations or just a simple course of phototherapy for neonatal jaundice. Sometimes, despite extensive counselling, parents still refuse the treatment for their child.

I have seen how children in the developing world struggle with these same illnesses that can be easily treated or prevented here.

Q My best tip is...

A That all caregivers should be vigilant about child safety.

Having worked in the emergency department, I have seen many injuries that were prevent- able, from accidental poisoning or ingestion of small objects to accidental falls and drowning. And not every case ended with a good outcome. I would urge everyone who lives with a child to keep a close eye on him and also to keep him away from anticipated danger at home when they are out. Many accidents can happen in a matter of seconds.

Q I wouldn't trade places for the world because...

A My job allows me to help alleviate suffering and restore smiles.

We cannot cure every condition but we can always treat and comfort a child.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'I am Doraemon to children'. Print Edition | Subscribe