Dr Sharon Wang, Senior Physiotherapist at Sengkang General Hospital, is a self-proclaimed jack of all trades, master of none. I sat down with her on a Friday evening to get to know her better – as well as her very special hobby.
"Why physiotherapy? It's such a cliché story!"
Despite holding a doctorate degree and therefore officially having the title of Doctor, Dr Sharon Wang is quick to correct me in the way I address her (I had been addressing her as Dr Wang up until this point). "Nobody really calls me "doctor", they just call me Sharon!", she says, laughing that her colleagues only ever call her "Dr Wang" to poke fun at her.
Having known from a young age that she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, Sharon found her fit in physiotherapy thanks to a love for sports and after being inspired by physiotherapists at Singapore General Hospital who helped her mother, a previous burns patient, learn to walk again.
Growing up "one of the boys", the Senior Physiotherapist at Sengkang General Hospital has always welcomed the challenge of picking up a new sport – dance, swimming, soccer, basketball, netball, tennis, squash – she's tried her hand at all of them. Wanting to be able to understand sports injuries and treatments better, she ventured into sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapy ten years ago.
Recently, she's shifted her area of practice into the inpatient Ortho-Surgical Team, to offer her extensive experience and mentorship to the twelve charges under her care. When asked why she decided to move from an inpatient setting to an outpatient one, Sharon explained, "I wanted to be more involved in the patient journey from start to finish, bridge the gap between outpatient and inpatient care, and ensure a better overall experience and rehabilitative journey for my patients."
Athleticism and grace
Outside of work, Sharon has a most unexpected passion – pole dancing.
Sharon says grip strength, built over time, is crucial to hold poses such as these – this one's called a straight edge!
With a background in ballet, supplemented with self-taught dance moves from watching 1990's pop icons and boy bands on television in her growing years, Sharon wanted to try a new genre of dance and eventually decided on pole dancing for the physical challenge it presented. She was also spurred on by the idea that she could strengthen her body and especially target her naturally "weaker" upper body and core.
She laughs recounting her first experience at a pole class, which was bought for cheap off Groupon (a website which offers goods and services at huge discounts), "I was so uncomfortable because the studio was so dark and it looked sleazy. I thought to myself, is this really what I want to do?", and so she left that studio and never looked back. Undeterred, she eventually found herself a new studio that offered a safe and comfortable environment for her to learn the sport. Thankfully, Sharon recalls no "epic fails" since she took up pole, "The only similar thing I can think of were some ugly dismounts or rolls away from the pole that were necessary to prevent injury!"
When asked about how it feels to struggle and persevere through the inevitable pains of bruises and falls, Sharon exclaims, "It humbles me! I think I am quite active and pretty fit, but knowing that I'm not strong enough for flexible enough for all the tricks is humbling." As she shows me some of the bruises on her arms, she explains, "This will always happen when learning new tricks! I've gotten used to the pain, so I regard these as badges of glory – I believe that when you get a bruise, it means you've either unlocked a new trick, or you're well on your way to perfecting it."
Sharon's 8-inch pole heels – she dances in these?!
Now, I know we're all wondering the same thing about pole dancers – how do they walk in those 8-inch heels, let alone dance in them?! "I had to practice in them for a week before I found any semblance of stability in them," Sharon sighs, "I did everything in them, from standing around the house, to studying, to going to the restroom, to cooking dinner in them!" She laughs sheepishly as she recalls a time when her mum decided to try on a pair of pole heels for the fun of it, "She was so confident and she actually walked pretty well in them for a first-timer… and then she spun around and fell, and broke her foot! After that, she never dared to touch my heels again."
Sharon has no particular trick that she's consistently working on, but she tells me she enjoys flips and drops most.
The growing pole community in Singapore may still be small, but it is a competitive one. There are several semi-professional and amateur competitions held throughout the year that are exclusive to members of the community. Sharon quips, "We build our connections and relationships by holding each other up on the pole, so we are very supportive of each other – literally and figuratively."
Sharon, herself, has participated in an internal amateur competition with her pole studio. She's competed once so far, just for the fun of it, and won unexpectedly! She is hopeful to soon join the ranks of the semi-professionals in competitions by ramping up her physical training in general – pole thrice a week, yoga once to twice a week, high-intensity workouts three times a week – yes, you read that right. Admitting that she is very competitive by nature, she jokes, "If I join a competition, I want to win!"
It has been 6 years on this journey of pole dancing, and for Sharon, it is much more than just a sport, "Of course the sensation of flying in the air or being inverted is such a great feeling, but I think pole is so much more, it builds self-confidence, courage, body awareness, strength, flexibility and control. I still have such a long way to go, but I love the challenge, how it humbles me and how it's helping me grow."
"Our greatest competition is our mind. If I had decided to give up on physiotherapy or pole whenever things started to get tough, I would not be where I am today. I firmly believe that as long as we keep working at it, no matter how slow our progress, we will eventually reach our goals."
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