Dr Minnie Pang, cooking up a storm during the final Histopathology lunch at the old Pathology Lecture Theatre.
A new Academic Fund has been established to recognise the extraordinary contributions of the late Dr Minnie Pang and to continue her legacy of mentoring leaders in the field of pathology.
It’s been two months since Dr Minnie Pang passed away, and the raw emotions felt by her loss are hard to conceal when colleagues talk about the impact she made on their lives.
“Dr Pang cared for everyone like a mother. She was the department matron, who organised large celebrations within our department and hosted send-off parties at home for doctors before they left for training overseas. But it was her role as a mentor where she made such a difference to so many of our lives,” remembers Dr Lee Ming, Consultant, Department of Anatomical Pathology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
Senior Consultant Dr Minnie Pang joined the then Department of Pathology (currently the Division of Pathology) at SGH in 2005 and specialised in gynaecological pathology. Over the following 12 years, she taught and mentored a generation of consultant pathologists, many of whom have since taken on leadership positions.
“After so many years of studying to be a doctor, we know how to look up and learn medical facts; it’s the mentoring that made Dr Pang stand out as a teacher. She would always tell you what was important: to focus on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses. Her magic was doing this in a way that felt like a chat rather than a dressing down,” says Dr Lee, who was mentored by Dr Pang when he was a medical officer.
“Dr Pang was a special teacher because she was honest and wasn’t shy to share her weaknesses, even though she was already such an experienced pathologist. If you asked her a question and she didn’t know the answer, she would say ‘I don’t know, let’s check it out together,’” says Dr Ronald Goh, consultant and former mentee.
But the Senior Consultant was no push-over. When discussing specimen slides, Dr Pang often had arguments with other consultants. She would ‘call a spade a spade’ if she thought someone was talking nonsense, yet she always managed to remain objective and never made disagreements personal.
Dr Pang took every opportunity she could to network and establish ties with hospitals overseas to facilitate fellowship stints for staff because she believed it was important for them to further their knowledge and studies. She was passionate about the professional development of junior doctors and often put their needs and those of the department before her own.
“Dr Pang had a strong sense of duty. She had wanted to retire so she could spend more time with her grandchildren but she said she would wait until I came back from my fellowship so she could handover her gynaepathology responsibilities to me and ensure a smooth succession,” says Dr Goh.
Dr Pang was so well-loved and was such an inspiration to those who knew her. In appreciation of her exceptionally generous nature, a colleague, who wishes to remain anonymous, made a donation to establish the endowed Minnie Pang Academic Fund. When asked for a quote about Dr Pang, he said ‘Minnie always gave more than she needed to’, which aptly describes her huge heart for others. This Academic Fund will be used to nurture and develop talents in the field of pathology and raise awareness of this specialty.
Each year, the SingHealth- Duke NUS Pathology Academic Clinical Programme (ACP) holds an annual pathology team quiz for local medical students, in tandem with International Pathology Day celebrations. Last year, the trophy was named the Minnie Pang Pathology Challenge Shield and was won by the Duke-NUS team. The Minnie Pang Academic Fund will support the prizes for this event, worth $1,500. The Pathology ACP will also work with the three local medical schools to issue up to three awards of $1,500 each to medical students who have excelled academically with outstanding results in pathology.
Dr Pang’s family is fully supportive of the establishment of the Fund, saying it would have met with her “whole-hearted approval”. Her husband, Dr Anton Cheng, recalls a former student who once described Dr Pang as a “teacher/mentor extraordinaire, mother/sister/agony aunt, confidante and more; to the Singapore Pathology and the wider medical community, all rolled into one.” The family also made a gift in her memory towards Pathology ACP.
It will take time for Dr Pang’s ‘second family’ at SGH to come to terms with their loss, but her legacy as well as passion for people and life will continue to make a difference.
Says Dr Lee: “Dr Minnie Pang was such a special individual in so many ways; we cannot fill her shoes. But we can try to emulate the lessons she taught us so that her legacy of care and mentoring lives on and benefits future generations of pathologists.”