Dr. Lawrence Loh (Class of 1998)

Dr. Lawrence Loh

 

1) Full Name: Lawrence Chew Loh

2) Current Location (Country):  Canada

3) When did you leave GIS: June ’98

4) Graduation class year of : 1998

5) What comes to your mind as soon as you hear of GIS?
I remember the canteen and hanging out there with old friends, eating chicken rice and listening to walkmans, acting in plays and acting up in the library, field trips and bus rides including goreng pisang stops, the Great Hall and writing exams in there, green and white uniforms for the gals and ugly brown pants for the boys (the younger generation lucked out with the blue pants)

6) What is your most memorable experience in GIS?
My favourite memory was acting as Benedict in “Much Ado about Nothing” in Year 10. I don’t have a memory like that anymore with too many competing demands on my time and mental energy – but it was amazingly fun to memorise all those soliloquies!

 

College/University

1) University:
University of Western Ontario (Biochem and Chem ’02, and then Med School ’06)
University of Toronto (Residency in Family Medicine ’08 and Public Health ’12)
Johns Hopkins University (Graduate training – Master of Public Health ’10)

2) Location of University (Country): Canada (Western, Toronto) and the U.S. (Hopkins)

3) Degree / Masters / PhD: MD MPH CCFP FRCPC

4) Field of study: Global Health Medicine, Family Medicine, Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

5) Who or what inspired you to choose your selected field of study?
Live in Malaysia during the late 90s led me to see a lot of upheaval and changes through the massive development that was going there. I became very fascinated in the link between population policy, planning, programs and population health outcomes. A lot of our health is shaped by the places we live and the policies that govern them, so I became interested in public health, which allowed me to pursue a more administrative role in the health system (though I do still see patients as there’s something satisfying about stitching up a cut!)

6) What did you study before entering University (A-levels, SAM, etc): A-Levels at Taylor’s College

7) How did GIS prepare you for University?
I think GIS taught me to be open to meeting pretty much everyone and learning about them, and taking part in a wide breadth of extra curricular activities. I feel very fortunate to have been able to keep in touch with lots of my classmates and friends and have had chance meetings with everyone all over the world – just in the last two months in Geneva, London, Ottawa and New York!

8) What’s your advice to current students who will be making the same choice as yourself?
Figure out what you’re interested in, and stick at it even if you don’t see quick gains immediately. If you keep pushing, eventually you’ll get somewhere. I started a non-profit on the side from nothing with two friends of mine from University (The 53rd Week: www.the53rdweek.org) and today we’re closer than ever to influencing short-term volunteer trips abroad, which was always our goal. Stick to it. It may not happen right away, but it’ll happen if you try long and hard enough.

 

Career

1) Current company and job title:
I have four. Medical Specialist at the Public Health Agency of Canada; Urgent Care Physician (various centres); Adjunct Lecturer, Departments of Clinical; Public Health and Global Health, University of Toronto; Director of Operations at The 53rd Week.

2) What inspired you to choose this career?
It gives me balance between all my various interests. I have a steady job with the federal government but can still pursue my interests in seeing patients / clinical practice / procedures in urgent care, teaching and research with the University, and global health programs with the non-profit sector.

3) The best and worst bits about the job:
Worst – it’s early in my career, and all the jobs have lots of competing demands, so sometimes my ability to spend quality time with family and friends is difficult. I imagine this will get better though as I become more established, but thankfully my wife is incredibly patient and kind (and also a huge supporter and guide)
Best – it keeps life interesting, and it’s always satisfying to see a paper get published knowing how hard your team has worked on it, or to give a lecture knowing you’re backed by great folks who have put together the numbers and research. Plus – you get to travel a lot, and I get to catch up with friends (and GISians) all over the world!
4) Happiest moment at work:
Too many to count! Publishing my first paper with a great group of friends, or the day we got the paperwork back that our non-profit had been officially incorporated… and of course in Urgent Care there are all sorts of victories (administering an antidote to a person in allergic shock, or stitching up someone with a really really bad wound) – it’s always fun!

5) Would you have made the same choice if you were given another chance?
Best advice I ever got was to never look back, you’ll just drive yourself mad. Yes, I would’ve. I’d rather think more about the choices ahead!

6) What advice would you give to the current GIS students who are interested in similar career choice?
If you’re going to be an MD, you should be seeing patients somewhat. It’s hard to keep up clinical practice as a researching / admin physician, but you should definitely try. And being married to a clinical physician helps, you always have an easy person to call 🙂

 

General

1) What are your goals and dreams?

I’d like to see The 53rd Week become a major global health player that helps to improve the outcomes of short-term medical experiences abroad. Such trips are where medics and other health care providers travel in a team to indigent communities outside their home country to provide limited clinical care, usually over a week. Current literature comes down very hard on these trips, and I completely agree that in their current form there is such heterogeneity and limitation that much of these efforts are really not that useful and can even harm the populations they are trying to help. However, where I disagree with a lot of literature is that these trips represent so much potential and investment – from the volunteers, the organisations that send them, and the communities that receive them. At The 53rd Week we’re working on trying to improve these trips by raising awareness of the issue, doing research to figure out how to make these trips better, and implementing innovative models to make such experiences less harmful for the receiving communities – and in fact, more effective. It’s been a great challenge trying to sort things out, but I imagine with more funding and more work, we’ll be able to make sure that such deeply personal investments by visiting volunteers eventually make meaningful impacts in communities that need any help and support they can get. That’s probably my biggest goal and dream right now. Of course, being a good public health physician and a good clinician and a good teacher are all on there too, but the potential of short-term volunteer work not being realised is what really drives me. Finally, I want to be a good husband to a wife who’s supported me through many years of training and residency and is a stalwart in my life – and of course, a good father to any kids that might be coming along 🙂

2) What’s your say on life-long learning?
Never stop living, never stop learning. Every person you’ve ever met has something to teach you, and a stranger is a friend you haven’t chatted with yet. Terribly trite, I know – but given the opportunity to meet someone new, go someplace new, try something new, I’ve always said yes, and save for a few forgettable times, it hasn’t led me wrong since.

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