Latest batch of NNI doctors to graduate from Neurology and Neurosurgery SingHealth Residency programs

Congratulations to the latest batch of doctors to survive and thrive during the six-year Neurology and Neurosurgery SingHealth Residency programs. Among them is Dr Tan Zhibin, Associate Consultant, Neurology, who was selected as the Valedictorian for the graduating cohort of 2023.

Dr Tan Zhibin was taken aback when his Programme Director congratulated his cohort for “completing kindergarten” when they were half-way through the SingHealth Residency programme. Little did he know that when he graduated from his residency four years later, he would only have begun to scratch the surface of the vast horizons of medicine.

Sharing this humbling revelation at the SingHealth Residency 2023 Graduation Ceremony on 15 Sep, the Valedictorian called on his fellow graduates to see themselves as the “vanguard of Medicine”, because there is still much to discover and learn.

“If we are to fulfil the mandate that our patients entrust to us, we must remember to have the humility to keep learning, rise to the challenges that come our way, remain united, and lead with purpose and courage,” said Dr Tan.

During his speech, he reflected on his personal growth during the eight-year specialist training programme, which included getting married and having three children, as well as the less tangible non-clinical skills he gained. These include the importance of collegiality, having purpose, and mustering courage to overcome challenges which will always arise when working in healthcare.

Leave no junior doctor behind

Neurology is sometimes not a popular rotation for medical students and internal medicine residents because it is complex and has a heavy emphasis on clinical skills. Time and commitment are required to master these skills and Dr Tan provides encouragement and support to keep medical students and junior doctors going. For example, he helps them brush up on their anatomy knowledge, which is key to making sense of Neurology, and ensures no junior doctor is left out nor left behind.

“When you’re busy with clinical work it can be easy to focus on junior doctors who are capable and performing well but it is also important to pay attention to those who are finding the neurology rotation challenging,” Dr Tan shared after the ceremony. “Involving them on ward rounds, giving words of encouragement when they do things right, and taking time out to find out about the things happening in their lives could help identify why they are struggling, and may potentially help to turn their performance around.”

This leadership and dedication to the field of neurology are some of the reasons Dr Tan was selected as the Valedictorian for his cohort.

“Zhibin has shown remarkable maturity and takes on adversity positively. Apart from being clinically competent, he is able to lead and inspire his team and juniors through his dedication to patient care and passion of the subject,” explains Dr Yasmin Bte Idu Jion, Programme Director, SingHealth Neurology Senior Residency Programme and Senior Consultant, Neurology, NNI.

Passing on skills and values

Dr Tan attributes his willingness to teach others to the support and example set by his seniors, such as Prof Lim Shih Hui, Assoc Prof Umapathi Thirugnanam, Assoc Prof Deidre Anne De Silva, Assoc Prof See Siew Ju, Dr Kaavya Narasimhalu, and Dr Tan You Jiang. Through their mentoring, Dr Tan developed essential clinical skills which help in establishing accurate diagnoses.  However, it was their non-medical skills like leadership, shared common purpose, and responsibility to patients that inspired him to pay it forward and to keep going during challenging times.

Surviving and thriving Residency

Training to be a specialist is a long, bumpy journey, but as Dr Tan has shown, it is possible to survive and thrive. Here are his top tips for making it through and coming out stronger:
  1. Remember what compelled you to join medicine, and keep this reason close at heart
  2. Create a support network of close friends
  3. Choose a programme that matches your clinical interests and has a culture that fits your personality and lifestyle
  4. At any stage of your career, don’t throw away old notes but build on old knowledge!
  5. Have faith in the system – the SingHealth Residency programme is tough, but robust and worth the sweat and tears!
  6. Be prepared to work hard!
Congratulations once again to Dr Tan and his NNI colleagues from SingHealth Residency’s graduating cohort of 2023: