Singapur: Wong Ting Hway

I do not feel I need to be detached from my patients. The actual involvement keeps me going.

— Wong Ting Hway

Wong Ting Hway (born 1973) has been carrying out humanitarian work since she was a medical student. In 2001, she joined Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and was sent to Angola, where she worked to save people from starvation. In 2002, she became the first Singaporean doctor to work full-time with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which posted her to Nepal. Now back in Singapore to complete her training in surgery, Wong is a volunteer with the Hospice Care Association, devoted to the care of the terminally ill in their own homes.

If Dr. Wong Ting Hway came to your bedside in a hospital, wearing a white jacket and stethoscope, you would probably think she was trying to impersonate a doctor. The slim, attractive 32-year-old practitioner looks as if she has just graduated from college. But looks are deceiving. Wong has been a doctor for six years and in that time she has managed to accomplish much in the humanitarian field. In 2001, she joined MFS and was sent to Kuito, Angola, where she worked for six months in a "therapeutic feeding center" treating patients who were at risk of dying from starvation. These patients were victims of the 30-year civil war that had decimated the country and split families apart. Each day at the center in Kuito, Wong tried to bring children and adults back from the brink; some survived, some did not. "Every day, I saw death," Wong has written of her experiences. "I saw it in the feeding center, I saw it in the hospital whenever I was on duty there, I saw it in the empty beds the next morning when I came to work and a child who had been critically ill the day before was no longer there." As Wong Ting Hway worked, bombs sometimes went off around the center, causing her and other staff members to jump. But she learned to regain her equilibrium. "When you are out there, your baseline for being happy or sad changes," she says matter-of-factly. "Happiness can come from the slightest improvement in one of your patients." After Angola, Wong returned to safe and quiet Singapore before applying to work with the ICRC, which posted her to Nepal in 2003. There she examined the impact of conflict on the country’s health services and gave support to those in the medical field. Now back in Singapore, Wong is completing her training as a surgeon, a qualification she believes is necessary to continue her humanitarian work.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Hospice Care Association