Duke-NUS Medical School

Raising the Bar by studying to be a doctor

Law graduate Goh Zhaohan spent his gap year volunteering in healthcare work before getting into Duke-NUS Medical School.
Law graduate Goh Zhaohan spent his gap year volunteering in healthcare work before getting into Duke-NUS Medical School.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

By the time he finished university in 2014, law graduate Goh Zhaohan was starting to turn the pages of a different book entirely.

Instead of immediately taking the Bar exam to be a lawyer, the 26-year-old took a gap year to volunteer at healthcare organisations, facing the challenges that came with it.

That was when he felt a calling.

"I really felt that I had to give myself a second chance," said Mr Goh, who already had interests to pursue medicine since his undergraduate days. "From then on, I tried my best to get myself into healthcare settings."

He intensified his efforts at voluntary welfare organisations and medical institutions over the next year.

During a stint at Tan Tock Seng Hospital in 2014, he worked as a night-shift volunteer, where he cared for patients who were prone to falling.

At the acute ward, he sat in a plastic chair by patients' beds, keeping watch over them, from 9pm to midnight.

He remembers an elderly Chinese man who was shouting in a fit of anger at nurses in the ward.

"He was frustrated and really only wanted attention," said Mr Goh.

The senior eventually warmed to Mr Goh, spending a good hour sharing stories of his family, the loss of his wife and the absence of his children. He even proffered advice to Mr Goh, before drifting off to sleep.

"I was struck by his vulnerability and surprised at the warmth of the connection that eventually emerged between us," said Mr Goh.

"I knew then that this was a challenge that I wanted to rise to for the rest of my life."

In his attempts to talk to and comfort frail patients, Mr Goh found the strength to pursue his passion.

"Every time I went home, I felt my being there was worth my while," he said. "I made a real connection with the people I helped."

He decided to apply for a place at Duke-NUS Medical School while taking the Bar last year.

While he was successful in both, the new medical student said he is sure of his path.

"There will be no more rewarding career choice for me than one which involves me picking up the skills of a doctor and to help patients achieve a better quality of life," he said.

Rahimah Rashith

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Raising the Bar by studying to be a doctor'. Subscribe