Whether it is speaking
in Cantonese or
broken Hokkien to
aunty or in Queen’s English to a
retired judge, Dr Wong Wei Teen
is in her element when treating
patients at SingHealth Polyclinics
(SHP) – Outram. She enjoys the
deep connection she has with them.
“It’s what drives me to work every
day. What keeps me going is knowing
I can nudge behaviour changes and
make patients think a lot more about
their health,” she said.
As Clinic Director of the
polyclinic, she now spends less
time with patients, and this makes
her value the encounters even
more. She runs an occasional
general clinic and the Family
Physician Clinic for more complex
cases once or twice a week.
“Patients in the Family
Physician Clinic have multiple
illnesses. Some have psychosocial
or mental health issues. A few patients may visit even though
they don’t have physical problems;
they just need to talk to someone,”
said Dr Wong.
Dr Wong joined SHP in 2011
and has spent the past 10 years
serving patients from all walks
of life. At 34, she is one of the
youngest leaders in SHP.
Open door policy
With more than 100 staff to
oversee, Dr Wong sees the
importance of helping people
understand each other’s
expectations, and maintaining
workplace camaraderie and
“Directorship doesn’t mean
leading the processes but the
people,” she said. “All our staff
know that they are not just
followers but have important,
pivotal roles in the clinic. If
each area functions well, we can
give the best to patients and to
She is particularly proud of her
“open door culture”.
Dr Wong explained, “As
a leader, you have to be
approachable. Whether the
problem is a conflict at work or
struggles in life — even if the staff
don’t directly report to you — you
may have to step in to resolve it,
or at the very least understand
Her caring nature got her
the “Mother of the Clinic” award
during a prize presentation for
staff at the polyclinic.
“Even the Nurse Manager, who
is in her 50s, says the staff are
all my children. So, I have 100
children here!” said Dr Wong,
who is single, but believes she
has had this maternal instinct
“When I was in Primary 2, an
older student vomited next to me.
I quickly took her to the toilet
and even helped wash her uniform.
The teacher was surprised by my
actions and commented that I
was behaving like a mother,” said
Dr Wong with a laugh.
Serving beyond borders
That same empathy led her to
volunteer for an overseas mission
trip after her final year in medical
school. But her interest was truly
piqued when she went to far-flung
villages in Mongolia in 2012.
“With no access to
healthcare, people there
learned to improvise. I saw how
they modified a plastic chair to become a wheelchair for
moving a patient around. It’s
not always about good doctors
or state-of-the-art equipment.
After that trip, I made up my
mind to go on mission trips at
least three or four times a year,”
Dr Wong said.
With every trip, it dawned on
her that medical missions cannot
only be about dishing out pills,
and that people needed much
more. As a result, she started
doing livelihood projects, which
included donating pump boats for
fishing, so that the locals could
earn their own livelihood.
Every mission is self-funded
and relies significantly on
donations. Dr Wong also uses her
annual leave for these trips.
Most of her mission trips
are now to the Philippines.
The remote villages there are
usually rebel-infested and require
a sampan ride in a river full
of parasites to get to, which
explains why the team is
always accompanied by armed
Despite safety concerns,
Dr Wong is not about to throw in
“There are people out there
who really need help. Why
restrict my skills and services to a
community that I can serve with
ease? I strongly believe that we
cannot look out for ourselves all
the time, and forget that other
people are just as human as we
are,” she said.