Samantha Wong (Class of 1997)

Current profession: General Practitioner – Medicine
University attended: International Medical University, Bukit Jalil, Malaysia and Manchester University, UK
Country and city of residence: Chorley, United Kingdom

I joined Garden International School when I started Standard 3, my parents having made the decision to send me and my older brother to an international school, with the far-reaching plan of eventually sending us to the UK for further education. We stayed at Garden until we both completed Form 5 and O Levels. I was always interested in Biology at a young age, so pursuing Medicine whilst in school seemed a natural choice. However, I have an abiding interest in stage management, having volunteered for my church productions in that capacity from the age of 14. After graduating from GIS, I attended Epsom College which is a boarding school in the UK. I studied Biology, Chemistry and Physics, with a view to applying for Medicine in university, and did a side subject in Astronomy IGCSE just as an added interest.

Whilst at Epsom, I’ve also gained the role of resident stage manager for school productions. I was considering potentially changing my degree choice to Stage Management, Psychology, Forensics Pathology or Horticulture at one point! In the end, I felt that Medicine was more likely to provide a stable job for the future. I ended up returning to Malaysia to pursue Medicine at International Medical University, Bukit Jalil, and was twinned to University of Manchester after completing the 2 1/2 pre-clinical training. I am now based in a practice in Preston, and live 10 minutes away from work with my husband and young son.

Tell us about your latest work…
I am currently a salaried General Practitioner at what I would class a ‘suburban/semi-rural’ practice. It is based in a small town, but part of our catchment area covers some farmsteads. We are, however, within 30 minutes of the Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley District Hospital It is fairly busy, and we currently have 4 partners and 3 salaried GPs. We are also a training practice, which means we take on medical students on their GP placements, as well as qualified doctors training specifically to be GPs. I work part-time, 3 1/2 days a week because I found this to be a good work-life balance for me and my family, which now includes a toddler! I also have many hobbies so being able to have time to do things like gardening and baking and knitting and crafting is hugely important to me. The option to be a partner is something we are planning to review and discuss in the new year.

As a General Practitioner in the UK, our usual day starts with a morning surgery, on average most GPs will see between 12-18 patients per surgery, ,and these could include a few telephone calls. We do home visits for elderly patients or patients who are housebound and then have lunch and do administrative work; looking at letters from the hospital and blood results, commenting and acting on these as necessary. We review medication requests and authorise them, and act on other paperwork such as referral letters, insurance forms, and medical report for people on benefits. We then have an afternoon surgery, but we take turns being the emergency doctor on-call to deal with last minute appointments of ill patients.

In truth, whilst training to be a doctor, I never wanted to become a GP as I felt it would be too ‘boring’, but before I had to choose my specialist training I had the good fortune to be placed with an amazing GP who really showed me what a difference we could make at the frontline of the NHS. Being a GP really is an interesting ‘speciality’ as it is one that needs you to be a ‘generalist’! In Malaysia, any qualified doctor can open up a practice and be a General Practitioner. In the UK, you need to apply for and undergo 3 years specialist training after graduating with your medical degree and completing the 2-year ‘Foundation Programme’. I think to be a good GP, you need to be able to approach people holistically, and the main difference in care of patients from other specialities is that you can never ‘discharge’ them….. if they have ‘unfixable’ problems like chronic diseases, dementia, certain mental health issues, you need to work with them to manage these long term. This is probably not the best job for people whose job satisfaction lies in having to ‘fix’ things every time!

What inspires you in life?
This was tough to answer as it isn’t something I’ve ever asked myself. The honest answer that first came to mind was God, my dad, and ‘everyday heroes’. I try to remind myself daily to love people the way God loves everyone, something instilled in me in my Christian faith. I’m not saying it is easy, but it helps me when I am faced with particularly ‘difficult’ patients and in general situations. My dad inspires me, because he has always approached life with a purpose, and belief that he is here to make a difference in some way. And I chose ‘everyday heroes’ because…. well…. big name ‘heroes’ intimidate me as I am not the sort of person with enough drive and vision to bring ‘world peace’ or ‘cure cancer’ or ‘move to India to run a free clinic’. Everyday heroes are just that…. everyday people like you and me. Doing little things that make a difference; helping strangers, donating to charity, volunteering their time, being excellent doctors/teachers/role models. By example, it makes making a difference achievable.

Describe GIS in three words…
Foundation, Friendships, Growth

How did GIS shape who you are today?
GIS was the springboard. I started in Standard 3 and stayed until graduating from Form 5. These are formative years, teaching me all manner of life skills. Certainly there was the the educational side to things; (I had a natural interest and aptitude at biology which directed me into the science stream). But there was so much more to learning and life experience than classwork.

I was in GIS when it was still in Cheras, a fantastic site that had all sorts of nooks and crannies and jungles to explore! I remember sitting against a corridor wall, facing the central courtyard at the Cheras site.It was near the art classroom, if I remember correctly, and there were some trees in the courtyard, but a bird has made a nest in one near this wall. The headmaster then (Mr Eales) caught me there, which isn’t really what I was supposed to be doing, but instead of telling me off, asked me what I was watching and took interest in the nest and eggs himself. It was the sort of encouragement that gave me more freedom to be ‘myself’ than to necessarily just fall in line with everyone else.

Advice to your younger self…
Be kinder to yourself. Explore your options; and there are many of them! Be brave and try new things and it is okay not to follow the ‘popular’ path! You will find yourself and your niche and direction in life.

GIS Alumni Office would like to thank Ms. Samantha Wong for sharing her life after GIS’s memories with us and we wish her all the best in all her future endeavors.