#BehindTheScope with General Surgeon Dr Aaron Poh

In our brand new #BehindTheScope series, BMG gets up close and personal with our doctors to reveal to you their personal thoughts and aspirations.

First up is Dr Aaron Poh, Medical Director and General Surgeon of Alpine Surgical Practice, who has fifteen years of experience under his belt. True to his calling of helping people, particularly in their time of greatest need, Dr Poh established his own clinic earlier this year.

Find out about his source of motivation, career highlights and more here.

1. Why did you decide to become a doctor?

It was during the last year of junior college that I made my decision to be a doctor. The idea was first hatched in secondary school but options continued to open up in the intervening years.

There were a few factors that affected my decision. First and foremost, I really wanted to help people, particularly in their time of greatest need. This is why cancer surgery and research have always been my greatest areas of interest. Secondly, I really like talking to people and learning more about the different facets of life. What better way than being a doctor to do that! Thirdly, I wanted a job where every day is potentially different instead of just sitting in front of a computer - being a doctor fits this requirement.

2. Why did you choose General Surgery?

I was initially interested in Internal Medicine and carried this mindset when I took up my General Surgical house officer posting. I realised during the posting that surgery wasn't too bad after all, as most conditions can be cured or achieve closure through surgery. Needless to say, the surgical experience gained during my posting was exhilarating. Lastly, I enjoyed the teamwork and team spirit that is ubiquitous in any surgical team.

3. What do you look forward to every day before heading out to your clinic?

I look forward to seeing the patients. For patients coming back for review, there is always the anticipation of knowing the results of your treatment or surgery. For first-visit patients, the excitement comes from knowing a new person, diagnosing the medical problem and offering a solution. With private practice, additional excitement comes from building my own clinic and moulding it towards my vision.

4. What is one common misconception the general public has about General Surgery? What’s the one thing you wish the public would realise about it?

Many people are put off by the term 'General Surgery'. I guess they somehow associate that with an 'unspecialised' surgeon. However, General Surgery is actually one of the main pillars of the surgical discipline and our initial training involves exposure to all disciplines before we decide on a sub-speciality. Due to our exposure, we can perform procedures from endoscopies and skin lump removal to abscess draining and gallbladder removal. These are in addition to our sub-speciality work. My mentor used to tell me that General Surgeons used to be called 'Pus and Shit surgeons' (pardon the language) in the older days as we can do everything. It may not sound glamorous but it’s something I take a lot of pride in!

5. Why did you decide to set up a private medical centre as compared to other healthcare settings?

After spending 15 years in the government sector, I realised that I like to 'build' things. I wanted to set up something that I can call my own and mould it into exactly what I envisioned.

6. What is the most memorable moment in your career?

There are two memorable moments or rather periods that I treasure. The first is the six years that I worked with and was trained by my mentors, namely Dr Tan Teng Kok, Dr Anton Cheng and Dr Chiu Ming Terk. The second is my one-year fellowship in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in the UK where I worked with Dr Simon Radley, Dr Tariq Ismail, Dr Dion Morton, Dr Nigel Suggett and Dr Kaori Futaba.

I want to make a special mention of my peers from my fellowship year who have remained in contact with me. They are Dr Trifonas Papettas, Dr Mit Dattani, Dr Rashid Al-Alawi, Dr Aamed Al-Araimi and Dr Deepak Vijayan.

7. What piece of healthcare advice would you give to Singaporeans?

Good health is essential to a good life. Always find a doctor whom you can develop a good rapport with.

8. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

My family is always my first priority when it comes to proportioning my free time. Next are my friends whom I try to keep in touch and have a drink with every month; in particular with my cycling buddies - we try to meet up at least once every two weeks. Cross-country cycling, including overseas trips, is something I look forward to, though this has been cut down by a lot since getting a wrist fracture seven months ago. Reading is my favourite pastime - I am truly in my own world when I read. Last but not least, I also have a passion for film photography

Dr Aaron Poh is the Medical Director and Consultant General Surgeon of Alpine Surgical Practice, sub-specialising in Colorectal and Trauma Surgery.

Currently practising in Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Aaron Poh performs a range of general surgical & abdominal procedures. The surgical procedures that he performs are largely laparoscopic (minimally invasive keyhole) surgery.

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