In the Year of Celebrating SG Women, we present stories which showcase and celebrate women’s multi-faceted contributions and progress at SNEC and SERI.
Join us to honour and acknowledge our team of amazing women who have made impact in the field of Ophthalmology, inspiring those around them with their brand of ethos in life.
Dr Rachel ChongConsultant, Glaucoma Department, SNECClinician Scientist, Glaucoma Research Group, SERI
Why did you choose to become an ophthalmologist/researcher?I enjoy the extremely ‘visual’ nature of our work in every possible sense of the word. The eye is a truly remarkable organ; to have the chance to study glaucoma, a common sight-threatening disease, in great detail has been a privilege. Research is the perfect fit for my extremely curious but slightly obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies! My husband jokes that my personality resembles the dog in the animated movie Up — he is easily distracted but has a bit of a squirrel obsession.
When you pursued a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), did you foresee yourself in this role?I signed up to be a clinician-scientist at a very young age, as soon as I landed a place in university, so I did anticipate taking on this role, although I didn’t realise how much hustling would be involved on a daily basis.
Which female role models inspired you to get into STEM? Did you have female role models for other aspects of your life? My biggest role model is my hugely resourceful, never-say-die mother, who lives by the mantra, “If you’re going to do anything, do it properly.” I’ve never felt that being a girl meant that I had to have any particular academic inclinations, STEM or otherwise. Philip Yeo, the former chairman of EDB and A*STAR, asked me pointedly during the interview that paved the way for my clinician-scientist career whether I was going to quit after all of it to have kids, because “so many women eventually do so”. That thought had never crossed my mind! I should have asked him then whether he posed the same question to male applicants. I’ve had the good fortune to meet several high-achieving women scientists early in my career, including Prof Tina Wong and Judy Sng — the latter told me that there was no reason why my life should suddenly revolve around my kids when I become a mother.
How did you balance family/personal life and career in your journey at SNEC and SERI? I don’t think anybody manages to keep these things in perfect balance, to be honest — I certainly don’t! A few things have definitely helped me to keep numerous balls in the air, although not always in sync: having an understanding spouse and family, supportive bosses/mentors, and great peers who are always ready to lend an ear or helping hand. Also, it’s important to learn to accept that there will be seasons when things are going to be especially tough, when nothing goes according to plan. I’ve learnt to count my blessings.
here to check out the
Women of Vision series.
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