Captain of a Starship

by Dr Steven Wong

Head, Department of Radiology, Sengkang Health

On a good day, Dr Steven Wong is just part of the Radiology team of Sengkang Health (SKH). He attends to clinical radiology sessions, helming radiology and imaging informatics (IT) responsibilities, working the ground as a clinician and that’s how he likes it. On other days, Dr Wong puts on the Head of Department (HOD) hat and battles the administrative matters while squeezing time in for research, teaching medical students and Radiology residents.

Underneath the distinct quiet presence of Dr Wong lies a stoic hard worker with self-depreciating humour.  Dr Wong jests that at work he gets to “exercise his tyranny” because he has absolutely no say at home. When work gets stressful, he decompresses at home by watching sci-fi DVDs (“I have a box set of almost any sci-fi movie you can think of”) and series such as “Big Bang Theory” and “CSI” with his three daughters. And then he gets back to replying emails till one am in the morning.

Dr Wong is simultaneously the Head of Department of Radiology at SKH, an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Radiology at Duke-NUS Graduate School of Medicine, Singapore and a Senior Consultant Musculoskeletal Radiologist at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Dr Wong maintains that his interests in all things sci-fi has nothing to do with his turn of heart to pursue Diagnostic Radiology from his first career pathway in surgery. “I was previously a surgeon, then I decided that I like the diagnostic part of healthcare,” he said.

As a HOD, Dr Wong found the challenges involved in setting up a new radiology department of SKH’s scale intriguing. He said, “The experience has been very worthwhile but also very humbling. It’s an exciting time.”
Having passed through every restructured hospital during his training, Dr Wong is now intent in getting a job done - to build a department relevant to our times. He strives to differentiate the Radiology department and relishes that his competent team is motivated about innovation. Here, everyone is committed to making a difference and celebrate collaboration towards a common goal. 

“I’ve never anticipated being HOD and I had endeavoured to avoid being in posts of authority. But somebody has to do it. It’s a job that needs to be done and it is one of the reasons why I’m still in the public sector,” Dr Wong said, sharing his thoughts on leading the department.

True to his word, Dr Wong lets his colleagues do the talking, encouraging them to make adjustments to the policies and protocols that will create the best environment for good treatment outcomes.

“We are a pretty happy bunch. Everyone chips in to keep the team integrated. We also have a WhatsApp chat group going so I know when someone is angry,” Dr Wong deadpanned. 

Radiology family
 
And his team continues to surprise. “It's been amazing. I’ve been giving our radiographers some flexibility and they've been very good at striving to change the ways that we do things,” Dr Wong said. “The nurses have also been creative. It's been very interesting to see them take responsibility and progress in a new environment.”

Stating an example of how things are different for SKH radiology, Dr Wong described, “The MRI and CT radiographers came to me on their own accord and said can we train each other? The radiographers then learn from each other, so that they can cover for the other section if they need to. The ultrasonographers are also learning mammography, when in other hospitals the sections are usually split up and they don't do any cross-coverage.”
 
The team’s aim is to provide a radiology service to SKH that is efficient, competent, safe and collaborative. Dr Wong established that this means doing the basic things well, without exposing patients and staff to unnecessary risks, danger or radiation. Radiology will have a central role in patient care within SKH, working closely with other clinical departments, nurses and allied health departments in delivering the most suitable radiological examinations and treatments for the patient, whilst attempting to save time and costs. 

Dr Steven Wong with his radiographer

Dr Wong is also a keen advocate of using informatics to drive patient-care throughout the hospital while using the best available technology. He is part of a team overseeing the implementation of a unified image archival system within SKH that will eventually be able to save anything image-related. “It would allow for a permanent record for anything imaging-related in the hospital, from Radiology to Cardiology departments, to images taken during surgery, endoscopy and visible light images like retinal photographs, ECGs, etc.”

With the aim of raising the profile of radiology, radiography and the central essential role of imaging in the practice of medicine today, Dr Wong continues to empower his team in the department. “Being HOD is like being a Captain of a Federation Starship in ‘Star Trek’. A quote from Captain Jean Luc Picard in ‘Star Trek’ is: ‘There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it’s just a matter of finding it.’ I hope that we never stop looking for new ways to solve problems, while always considering the welfare and safety of all those around us.”


About the author/contributor

Dr Wong is simultaneously the Head of Department of Radiology at SKH, an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Radiology at Duke-NUS Graduate School of Medicine, Singapore and a Senior Consultant Musculoskeletal Radiologist at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

SingHealth DukeNUS Singapore General Hospital Changi General Hospital Sengkang General Hospital KK Women's and Children's Hospital National Cancer Centre Singapore National Dental Centre Singapore National Heart Centre Singapore National Neuroscience Institute Singapore National Eye Centre SingHealth Community Hospital SingHealth Polyclinics SingHealth DukeNUS Singapore General Hospital Changi General Hospital Sengkang General Hospital KK Women's and Children's Hospital National Cancer Centre Singapore National Dental Centre Singapore National Heart Centre Singapore National Neuroscience Institute Singapore National Eye Centre SingHealth Community Hospital SingHealth Polyclinics SingHealth DukeNUS Singapore General Hospital Changi General Hospital Sengkang General Hospital KK Women's and Children's Hospital National Cancer Centre Singapore National Dental Centre Singapore National Heart Centre Singapore National Neuroscience Institute Singapore National Eye Centre SingHealth Community Hospital SingHealth Polyclinics