Monday, July 15, 2013

Vivian Bala Excellent Commencement Speech

As much as I am growing to dislike him, I must commend him for an excellent and true commencement speech to the newly minted doctors at NUS.

What candor when he said,

Let me deal with the first. We pride ourselves on belonging to a noble profession, and indeed, I can tell you that as someone who has had to make the transition from medicine to politics, I can assure you, medicine appears a far more noble profession. I say so, on the basis of the experience as I walk around the neighborhood - I still have people come up to me, warmly shake my hands and say, “ You operated on my child, you operated on my mother, and they are well, and they wish you all the very best”. I can tell you that as a politician, you do not get that kind of gratitude - so you have all made the right choice!

He is also right that engineers* are nobler than doctors even if society do not fete them like doctors, but the noblest are teachers, religious leaders and at the apex politicians. The trouble with our world is that political offices are often far larger than the men and women occupying them. You are an excellent doctor but lousy politician. Go and learn how to shrewdly honest from Abraham Lincoln.

I suspect you might be right about WP this time but to me you are the wrong guy to call them out. I really don't think you MIWs are better than those wearing blue. They graciously leave their hammers at home when they come to parliament. Why can't you guys be more constructive?

See what you all have done, opening up a gap for NSP to fill.

*The third and final point I want to make is something I have come to appreciate more in my current phase of life. And that is, that actually more lives have been saved by engineers, public health inspectors, the people who ensure clean water, safe food, proper sewage, drainage and a safe environment. As doctors, we are used to being top of the class; we are used to being the lead surgeon; we are used to being the person everyone listens to at the bedside. But remember, we are only curing. The really big difference is in prevention - preventing people from falling sick in the first place. Therefore, my third appeal to you is to take on the attitude of professional humility and understand that we are only part of a much larger team and a system that truly gives people security and preventive healthcare. 

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