Courtesy of THIS Quarterly magazine  
 
 
About Dr. Michael Wong Yuet Chen  
 
   
     
 

DOCTOR ENTERPRISER

Talking to Dr Michael Wong Yuet Chen is like talking to an old friend, even if you are meeting him for the first time. His gentlemanly mannerisms - almost chatty to the point of overwhelming you with a monologue - is never a bore. Instead, his talk is full of little gems of advice for anyone curious enough to know how he manages to become a leading medical specialist in Singapore and around the region.

To those who know him, that’s hardly surprising, considering that Dr Wong has been a well-known Singapore urologist with an international standing in his highly specialised field of endourology, as well as a seasoned counsellor who has honed his skills through patiently listening to people all his life.

Yet this eloquent doctor was the chief architect behind some of the big initiatives that took place in none other than Singapore’s leading public hospital - the Singapore General Hospital - by pioneering several new initiatives in patient care within the campus of SGH and to wear the hat of a management council member for the hospital.

“For the most part, I was in SGH for 21 years, from 1985 to 2007,” he says. “One of the things I’ve realised is that, life is great whichever side of the fence you’re in, as long as you’re happy, and you know what you’re doing. I was one of the rare private doctors that would tell you that I’ve got no regrets working in SGH and staying so long there. The SGH has given me a lot of things, which I acknowledge. One of them was the excellent training I have had. Another was the opportunity to grow as a person, and providing me a dual career pathway (both clinical and corporate) which was something very exceptional.”

THE MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT

Dr Wong explains further that between 2001 and 2006, he had the opportunity to set up six new business units within SGH. He was one of six corporate directors reporting directly to the CEO, setting up among others a new clinical facility at Block 7 Level 1, and the SGH branch at Gleneagles Hospital. In short, I was given the opportunity to start a whole new division of business development, and was its pioneering director, for the SGH campus.”

That was unheard of a decade ago, especially within a public hospital. But the projects started by Dr Wong had all the settings to help evolve the careers of doctors. He says: “As a corporate director, besides being a full-time urologist, I was managing around 40 administrators. In terms of learning
experience, it was a very good, very rewarding five years of my life. More importantly, I learned how to bring a project from point A to point Z, and it challenged me to do the right things.”

Experience aside, being able to work with and manage professionals who were his peers took more than just sounding convincing. “Managing doctors is very challenging,” he says, “It requires a lot of EQ, a clear vision and sheer
discipline. Being a doctor who has an international standing among my peers
and someone with integrity also helps greatly. So, when it came to building things for the hospital, there was more buy-in; there was more trust.”

While his personal achievements as a doctor were a favourable factor, Dr Wong’s track record as a conference organiser, public speaker and counsellor speaks volume of his ability to deal with others. “I must admit my personality is heavily influenced by the two schools I came from - Anglo-Chinese School and Raffles Institution. But my character - all the skill-sets and the boundless energy I possess - was greatly influenced by two Christian organisations when I was growing up, namely, Boys Brigade and Inter-Varsity Fellowship.

ABOUT DR. MICHAEL WONG YUET CHEN

Dr Michael Wong is a Senior Consultant Urologist who is internationally recognised for his surgical expertise and academic contribution to the field of Urology, in particular the sub-specialised field of minimally invasive Endourology and Female Urology.

Currently, he is the Medical Director and Senior Consultant of the Urology, Fertility and Gynaecology Centre at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, as well as President of the Singapore Urological Association. Prior to this, he was Director of:

• SGH Urology Centre
• SGH Specialist Practice at Gleneagles Hospital
• Director, Endourology and Stone Disease
• Director, Female Urology and Urodynamics
• SGH Regional Endourology Fellowship Programme

Dr Michael Wong’s expertise and generous efforts to promote endourology led to his election to the Board of Directors of the prestigious US-based International Society of Endourology in 2006. He is the only urologist from the ASEAN region to sit with the other world opinion leaders and experts in Urology. This is the highest peer recognition one can achieve.

He is also the only urologist from Asia to be appointed Co-Chairman of the WHO 2nd International Consultation in Stone Diseases held in Paris. This consultative committee of urology experts meets about every five years to discuss and map out the guidelines and direction for the rest of the world’s urologists in their management of kidney stone diseases. This appointment recognises that Michael is a world leader.

Dr Michael Wong is the Founder President of the Asian Society of Endourology which started in 1998. This network of eminent Asian urologist made it their mission to impart their skills and expertise to junior members. His contribution to urology to the region especially impressed Thailand and Japan. In 2006, the Thailand Urological Association conferred him the title of Life Honorary Member, the only Singaporean thus recognised. In 2003, he was made the Life Honorary member of the Japanese Endourology & ESWL Society.

He was awarded a PSC scholarship for Medicine, by the Singapore government. He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore in 1985, and joined the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) as a practising doctor. He obtained his post graduate degree in General Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in 1990, Singapore in 1990 and was conferred a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore and Fellow of the International College of Surgeons in 1995. Dr Wong also received his Healthcare Manpower Development Programme Scholarship (HMDP) to further his subspecialty in the US. He completed two US fellowship programmes in Endourology and Female Urology. Further on, he completed a residency programme in laparoscopic robotic surgery in California, US.

Dr Michael Wong is currently a senior transplant surgeon of the Singapore Kidney Transplant Surgical Team Ministry of Health, since 1991. He is accredited by the Ministry of Health to perform kidney transplantation since 1996.

Spent 11 years in the 12th Company Boys’ Brigade organisation (ACS) which gave me the skills for public speaking, understanding group dynamics, understanding how people work together, and leadership abilities. I was challenged to organise activities for 200 boys, and to think through all the contingencies if things were to go wrong.”

 

Those were the formative years when Dr Wong learned by example, observing how seniors handled issues, planned out activities, and managed others to work towards a common goal. Later in his university days, he was also heavily involved for six years in Inter-Varsity Fellowship organisation that had a wide network of tertiarystudents who helped him grow as a person, acquire organisational skills and more importantly, to counsel and to listen to people. “My experiences in these two organisations didn’t prevent me frommaking wrong decisions, but laid the foundation for my current world-views and help me a lot in doing my best for my patients. The experience was also important in my management consultancy work in SGH.”

A NEW LIFE JOURNEY

In 2007, at the age of 46, Dr Michael Wong decided to uproot himself and try something new. “I see life as a journey,” he says. “Twenty-one years at one place far exceeded the norm for a person of my personality. I wanted to tear down my support structure, and with no more salary and supporting staff, restart my career.” It was a point in his life journey where he wanted to “change train”, to face new challenges and to relive the “full wind in my face again,” he says. So, at the age when most professionals would have long settled into their clearly defined career paths and looking forward to their golden sunsets, Dr Wong left for private practice, not knowing whether he would be able to succeed as an entrepreneur or to abruptly end his endeavour to go back to being a salaried man. It was a big gamble on his livelihood.

Unsurprisingly, for the energetic doctor who stresses a lot on EQ and the ability to work
with others, has managed to pull through with flying colours. Today, he is Medical Director and Senior Consultant of the Urology, Fertility and Gynaecology Centre at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

To some extent, his reputation precedes him. Among his clientele, 50% are Caucasians, while Singaporeans make up about 30%. He attributes his foreign connections to his reputation as an internationally recognised expert in his medical specialisation. “I get regular referrals from urologists working in the US, UK and other parts of Asia and it is a privilege to manage their patients.” says Dr Wong.

Despite having gone into private practice, Dr Wong still maintains his position as Visiting Consultant performing renal transplantations for public patients at the SGH and speaks regularly at international urology conferences like World Congress on Endourology.

Four years on after restarting his career as a private doctor, he is happy that he is thoroughly enjoying the new direction his journey has taken, especially now that he works side by side with his wife, Dr Julianah Abu, Director and Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the clinic.

Dr Julianah is a prominent Malay Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in Singapore. She is well known for her efforts in educating the public regarding women’s health, in particular reproductive health, via her numerous public forums, television appearances and radio programmes. She has also been featured frequently in the daily newspapers and magazines.

She is one of a small number of specialist gynaecologists in Singapore who is accredited by the Singapore Ministry of Health to perform assisted reproductive procedures such as IVF for infertile couples. She was a Senior Consultant Gynaecologist at the Centre of Assisted Reproduction (CARE) in Singapore General Hospital before she left for private practice in 2004. While in SGH, she developed her interest in Male Fertility as well and went on to set up a joint Gynaecology-Urology Male Fertility Service which enabled the male partner to benefit from an earlier assessment and a more comprehensive joint gynae-urology treatment of their male fertility problem at the same time that their female partner is being assessed.

Back in 2000, Dr Wong set up a joint service, called The Male Fertility Clinic, with Dr Julianah who was then from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the SGH. This clinical service enabled couples to have their treatment managed together at the same time, especially benefited couples with a male cause for infertility as otherwise, the diagnosis is usually delayed because the male partner is rarely consulted and examined until much later. This unique team of tackling both female and male fertility issues simultaneously has lead to invitations to regional centres in the region.

That teamwork has continued till this day. “Fertility cannot be seen as a women issue and it’s important to see and assess both husband and wife,” says Dr Wong. “In our practice we can see them both simultaneously. Besides joint consultations, we also run joint female urology consultations.” Dr Wong has a fellowship in female urology from the US, and seeing women with bladder issues is complementary to Dr Julianah’s gynaecological expertise. “As a general rule, we operate [on patients] together, since our skill-sets complement each other,” he adds.

PATIENT FIRST

Dr Wong believes in maintaining good doctor patient relationships.

"Many people say success has to do with hard work. I don’t deny that but I want to add - it’s hard work and a clear mind that makes all the difference. Without clear thinking, all the hard work might come to naught."

“I believe in giving the best medical care, giving them the latest data, directing them to the data, and helping them make an informed decision,” he says.

He is able to do so because internationally, he is also recognised for his academic contributions. He is an editorial board member of the Journal of Endourology, the world’s biggest subscribed academic reference journal for Endourology. Many of the world’s best research on Endourology are published in this journal. Since 2001, he has been on the International Scientific Committee of the World Congress of Endourology. He has published more than 68 scientific papers in peer reviewed journals, written five chapters in books on urology, and is the editor of four urology books. He has delivered more than 120 international lectures worldwide.

He adds: “I believe in maintaining an open line of communication via email, replying every email my patients send me, and no one else looks over my email. I don’t like a scenario where I’m convinced [to take certain actions] but not my patients. There must be mutual respect, and the belief that I’m providing them the best care possible. In that sense, I’m very structured in the way I approach my clinical practice. I’m upfront with the right information, since I sit on the editorial board of some of the most advanced medical journals in the world.”

When asked how he has managed to accomplish his illustrious career as a doctor and a corporate management consultant, he has this to say: “Many people say success has to do with hard work. I don’t deny that but I want to add - it’s hard work and a clear mind that makes all the difference. Without clear thinking, all the hard work might come to naught. Thinking clearly will bring you ideas, set your plans in motion, and benefit the patient. Don’t you agree?”

 
 
 
Dr Michael Wong
Medical Director & Senior Consultant Urologist

FAMS (Urology), FICS (USA), FRCS (Edinburgh), 
M Med (Surgery), MBBS (S’pore)


Address
 
International Urology, Fertility & Gynaecology Centre 
3 Mount Elizabeth Road, #10-09, 
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, 
Singapore 228510
Tel : (65) 6838 1212
(65) 6838 1218
Fax : (65) 6838 1216
Email : email@drmichaelwong.com
Website : www.drmichaelwong.com