It was the cause and effect in a science lab that set Ms Dorothy Lee on her journey into the field of pharmacy.
As a secondary school student, she enjoyed chemistry and biology lessons, but the topic that piqued her interest was how one field has an effect on the other.
She was curious about how drugs interact with the human body to bring about healing and how, interestingly, they also cause side effects.
Curiosity turned to resolve and Ms Lee decided that pharmacy was the career for her.
She even had the right temperament for the work — an outgoing personality that would make communicating with people about their medication a lot easier.
To practise as a pharmacist in Singapore, Ms Lee had to complete a one-year pre-registration training course after she graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Pharmacy) honours degree.
Currently an outpatient pharmacist at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, one of the institutions under the SingHealth Group, she is part of the pharmaceutical team developing more ambulatory clinics in an outpatient setting.
This involves shifting the pharmacists’ attention to more clinical work such as dose titration (adjustment) and patient assessments.
Another area of focus is research to make new drugs in the market applicable to the local population.
Ms Lee enjoys helping patients overcome challenges with their medication.
Relating an encounter with an overseas patient who had a problem with medicines with short expiry dates, she says: “As pharmacists, we have to think of ways to resolve their puzzles by using suitable substitutes, calculating the right amounts of active ingredients to mix with appropriate solvents.
“My heart was warmed to see the great relief on the patient’s father’s face when we provided him with the solution. With this simple intervention, we made an impact on this family’s life.”
With a pharmacist’s expertise, patients enjoy a wholesome health-care experience, and this is what makes a pharmacy career meaningful.
An accurate diagnosis without the right medication for treatment is like a missing piece of the puzzle.
Pharmacists complete the puzzle by helping patients get the right medication in the right dosage for effective treatment results.
Says Ms Lee: “I get personal satisfaction knowing that in my line of work, I can empower patients with the knowledge to manage their disease or condition.
“This translates into patients receiving maximum benefits and minimum side effects from their therapy.”
She stresses that times have changed — pharmacists cannot simply instruct patients to take their medicines.
Today, patients are encouraged to be more knowledgeable and be involved in their own therapy.
“These days, many patients surf the Internet to gather information about the medication prescribed and they tend to ask more about the effects of these medicines,” she explains.
She says there are low points in her work, just like any other job.
Hers are dealing with difficult patients who insist on having their own way when taking their medication.
Even then, she serves them to the best of her ability, knowing that they too have constraints of their own.
She says: “I understand that patients and their family members are already having a tough time coping with the illness and I try to serve them with a smile and provide some form of encouragement.
“I get a warm feeling inside when occasionally they reciprocate with a ‘thank you’ or a compliment in writing.”
She has this advice for those who might want to follow in her footsteps: “The field of pharmacy is for someone who is patient, meticulous and has a love for people.
“It is important for the pharmacist to stay calm and focused in difficult situations and have a cheerful disposition when interacting and sharing knowledge with her patients.”