Our Long Service Award (LSA) ceremony had its long-awaited in-person celebration recently to honour fellow colleagues who have dedicated their invaluable years to NHCS. The awards are a testament of the remarkable contributions of our staff who have weathered the storm of the pandemic with resilience and commitment to their profession.

A firm believer in mentoring the younger generation
It is a double celebration for Assoc Prof Chua Yeow Leng, Senior Consultant from the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Assoc Prof Chua not only received his 40-year LSA, but was also recently inducted into the Duke-NUS Medical School Hall of Master Academic Clinicians – the highest accolade recognising individuals who demonstrate clinical mastery and exemplary standards in research and professionalism.

Assoc Prof Chua (middle) at the induction ceremony for the 2023 Cohort of Master Academic Clinicians.

How did your journey begin with NHCS? 
I was fascinated with the field of surgery ever since I was a medical student, and was drawn to the technical precision hence decided to pursue surgery as my specialty. I started my journey with Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and had the opportunity to observe some truly remarkable surgeries. I was one of the many who were involved in establishing NHCS and our hard work finally paid off when Singapore Heart Centre opened on SGH campus in 1994. My employee number then was ‘02’ and I was the second staff in the organisation! 

You have dedicated 40 years to the field of medicine, what keeps you motivated?
It is the fulfilment and challenges that come with the job, especially in the area of valve surgery where my passion lies. When you are working with equally committed colleagues – 40 years just flies by! This is also when I realised I have truly lived life to the fullest.

Any memorable moments to share?
There are too many memorable moments over the years but one particular incident stands out and that remains one of my favourite memories. During a humanitarian mission trip to Myanmar, I developed appendicitis and had to return to Singapore for treatment at SGH. Throughout my hospital stay, colleagues from Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) came to take care of me, even though I was operated for a general surgical condition. The camaraderie and love gave me new perspective on the importance of patient care and the work we do, which I still carry with me to this day.

What was the biggest challenge you have ever faced in your journey as a surgeon?
Being a head of the department of cardiothoracic surgery at 35 years old was a huge challenge then, as I was the main surgeon at NHCS and was on-call almost on a daily basis. Those days were hectic and the workload only became manageable when new doctors joined the department. 

What do you believe in and do you have any advice for the young aspiring surgeons?
I believe in nurturing and developing the younger generations of doctors and medical staff to their fullest potential, and to impart my knowledge and skills whenever I can. To the young ones: Keep the fire in your belly in whatever you do in life. Do your best and learn to enjoy things that come your way!

Be present in every moment
The 30-year LSA recipient, Health Care Assistant Ammavasai Vanaroja from CTICU has made this sunny island and NHCS, her home despite her hometown being in India.


What kept you going for 30 years?
Life can be busy and hectic at times hence I keep myself motivated with the little but important things in life such as bonding time with family, friends and colleagues. I hope to continue learning new things and taking on new responsibilities so that I can constantly grow as an employee and hopefully, contribute more to the team and organisation. I am certainly looking forward to many more years with NHCS.

How do you think you have grown over the years?
I came to Singapore with basic education in Tamil and no knowledge of English at all. There were many challenges when I first started working and also moments when I feel exhausted due to the hectic schedule. I am thankful to have supportive colleagues and superiors who are like my family, especially Sister Maliga who encourages and assures me that English is just a language – a skill that can be learned. Indeed, with time, I was able to pick up basic English through my daily duties, something I have never imagined I could do. Now, my responsibilities have expanded to include supervising and guiding trainee nurses at certain areas. This is all possible because of my fruitful journey in NHCS!

Do you live by any life quote?
Being a Health Care Assistant for the past three decades has carved many positive changes into my life. I now live by a simple life quote - "Learning is a treasure that will follow us wherever we go". To do this, I strive to be present in every moment and take everything in my stride to achieve excellence.

Never stop learning
Staff Nurse Abirami D/O Nagarasan from Ward 56 has a very positive and bright demeanour. A passionate learner, the 20-year LSA recipient expressed her desire to keep the learning flame going.


How has your journey with NHCS been so far?
I started as an Enrolled Nurse in 2002. Then in my late 30s, I thought my greatest achievement was completing the Diploma in Nursing course, as it was a trying period for me having to juggle work and studies.  Now that I am already in my 40s, I cannot believe that I am about to start a new milestone - pursuing my Bachelor (Hons) of Science in Nursing! More than ever, I appreciate NHCS for believing in my abilities and sponsoring me to further my knowledge and skills. It is definitely no easy feat but I am confident and excited about the journey ahead!

Did you face any significant challenges over the years and how did you overcome them?
I experienced the tough periods of both SARs and Covid-19 pandemic. I am glad there was always someone to count on in the team, as well as great leaders and colleagues who supported one another, and provided assurance with regular huddles and sharing of updated guidelines.

For a non-tech-savvy person like me, it is daunting to work in an environment with ever-changing technology. However, I recognise that the use of technology could positively impact healthcare, hence I always strive to keep myself abreast by attending relevant talks and roadshows, and seeking advice from our helpful nursing informatics colleagues. 

What would you say to someone who has just started nursing?
Take advantage of every learning opportunity and keep asking questions. I believe that every problem has a solution. The end of the tunnel may sometimes seem far or impossible, but with a positive mind-set you can achieve anything and overcome any failure.