Meeting patient changed his life
When he was younger, Mr Phua Wei Leong, 21, would visit the polyclinic once a month because he would be down with a fever, a cough or the flu.
It was a strain on his father's monthly income of around $1,000, which he earned by doing odd jobs.
Guilt-ridden, Mr Phua wanted to know how medicine worked. He wanted to find a way to come up with affordable medicine so that low-income families would not suffer the way his father did.
Mr Phua will be graduating with a diploma in Pharmaceutical Sciences at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) next Thursday (May 12).
He has also received a Ministry of Health Holdings scholarship to pursue a degree in Radiation Therapy.
He recalled how his father, the sole breadwinner who had to support a family of five, struggled to pay for his medication.
Said Mr Phua: "I felt bad because I couldn't do much to help. The money used to pay my medical bills could be used for something else."
He ended up being fascinated by how medicine was able to cure him.
He was very interested in football when he was younger.
"Growing up, my dream was to play for the national football team," he said.
"But my parents did not allow me to play... because they wanted me to focus on my studies."
When he was in Geylang Methodist Secondary School, he turned down the chance to play for The Football Association of Singapore's Junior Centre of Excellence (Under 16).
He decided to pursue his studies at NYP. In his second year there, when he was placed at the National Cancer Centre Singapore for the first part of his student internship, a conversation with a patient changed his life.
He said the patient's face was pale, her lips were white and she looked unstable.
Mr Phua recalled: "I helped her to the waiting area and kept her company. She told me she had just done her radiation therapy and I asked her more about it.
"She said that the waiting time for radiation therapy is very long and they require more manpower."
That conversation sparked Mr Phua's interest in radiation therapy.
If he does become a radiation therapist, he hopes to shorten the waiting time so that more patients would be able to receive treatment earlier.
She told me she had just done her radiation therapy and I asked her more about it. She said that the waiting time for radiation therapy is very long and they require more manpower.
- Mr Phua Wei Leong, on the conversation that would inspire his choice of study