Wednesday, April 15, 2009

STI: Blending science with art

April 16, 2009

The Pro

Blending science with art

Dr Chin Chong Min, 48, a senior consultant urologist at Mount Elizabeth Centre, talks to POON CHIAN HUI about robots, hypochondriacs and how science and art come together in his work


I decided to specialise in urology because...


The specialty is constantly progressing. Kidney stones can now be broken down by shockwaves and lasers. Prostate cancer can be removed with a robot. I spent one week in the United States to learn robotic surgery. That's the only video game I play - in the operating theatre.


The urinary system is fascinating because...


It is very organised. The kidneys act as filters, producing urine that is drained into a reservoir, the bladder. Once the reservoir is full, the urine empties via a tube called the urethra.


The only 'defect' is that in women, the bladder muscle weakens with age, causing incontinence. For men, the prostate enlarges, resulting in blockage. Hence, women leak easily while men cannot pee easily. Believe me, the men have it worse.


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


Artist. As much as the study of medicine is a science, its practice is an art. An artist should not overdo things.


This is similar to treating patients. When prescribing medicine, do not 'over-dose' by giving too many tablets. In surgery, do not 'over-cut'.


After all, masterpiece paintings are created from gentle strokes, not rough scratches.


I have come across all types of cases...


Just when you thought you have seen it all, along comes a bizarre case. This is why I will never be bored in this line - only tired.


Medical textbooks tell us how to diagnose 90per cent of the cases, but you will need another 10 years to learn how to diagnose the remaining 10 per cent.


A typical day for me would be...


Waking up at 6.30am to take my 16-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter to their schools, which are in different directions. I rush home to have breakfast with my wife, 44, a clinic manager, and reach my clinic by 8.30am.


On some afternoons, I have clinic sessions at other hospitals. Otherwise, I go to National University Hospital to teach medical students.


I always hope to finish work by 5pm but emergencies do crop up. You never know what to expect every day.


I love patients who are...


Active in maintaining their health. They read up on their conditions and listen to the doctor's advice. I find that these patients recover faster as they are more motivated. They also have a more positive outlook.


Patients who get my goat are...


Those who worry too much and fear the worst. To make matters worse, they surf the Internet and get even more frightened. I always tell patients that the Internet cannot replace a doctor's diagnosis.


My favourite quote to such people is: 'Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.'


One little known fact about incontinence is...


There are many types: stress, urge, overflow and mixed incontinence.


Stress incontinence is most common in women. However, many suffer for years before they finally agree to undergo surgery.


Things that put a smile on my face are...


Curing someone of cancer. The smile on a man's face when you tell him that his cancer is gone. It also makes the surgery worth the risks and costs.


It breaks my heart when...


Unexpected complications develop after a successful surgery. Doctors can plan but we cannot predict. We do our best but God does the rest.


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


I had wanted to be a doctor since I was in primary school. Initially, I wanted to be a medical physician - a non-surgical specialist.


But when I first did surgery as a houseman, I realised that I was ambidextrous. That motivated me to be a surgeon. It helps to be able to use both hands to handle tissues and instruments.


My best tip...


Seek treatment early. Not only do you suffer less, you pay less too. Some people avoid seeking treatment because of financial concerns. My advice is to buy medical insurance. Then you can stop worrying and focus more on your health instead.

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