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    World Family Doctor Day 2023 with Dr Zafiruddin

      World Family Doctor Day is celebrated annually on 19 May wordwide, and curiously, this year’s theme: “The Heart of Healthcare” aligns perfectly with the aim of MOH’s Healthier SG initiative for all Singaporeans. But what exactly do family doctors do, and how does their work impact lives every day? Resident Family Physician, Dr Mohd Zafirrudin Bin Abd Rahman from SATA CommHealth shares his take on this.

      1) How long have you been a Family Doctor?

      Dr Zafiruddin: I have been a family doctor for the past 8 years and with SATA CommHealth since May 2022. 

      2) Who or what inspired you to be a Family Doctor?

      Dr Zafiruddin: I believe it was my own family doctor growing up. What inspires me is that family doctors are the first point of contact in any situation, be it minor or major illness; to provide care, reassurance and necessary information if any further tests or otherwise. These things are very important for any individual to have, and I’m glad that I can do the same for others now. 

      3) Family Doctors are involved in primary care. What does primary care mean to you?

      Dr Zafiruddin: I think primary care means FIRST. We are the first point of contact for non-urgent cases for members of the public to healthcare professionals and services. 

      4) What are some challenges of being a Family Doctor?

      Dr Zafiruddin: This is interesting. There are many challenges and I’m sure many fellow colleagues can agree with me. Personally, and firstly, we can never guess who would walk through our doors. The cases we get every day varies, so we must always be prepared. 

      We are also dealing with a huge range of patients. The best example is in terms of age, as we can attend to an elderly patient now, but the next patient is a child. So, we have to “tune” our brain quickly to suit the patient. Another example is seeing one patient with a simple issue to seeing another patient with multiple challenging issues and complex comorbidities. 

      Secondly, patients can come with the vaguest of complains and it’s our job to make relevance clinically, so as not to miss any important medical issue. It can be a challenge as there an art to this practice, but I guess that’s what makes our work interesting.

      5) Family doctors ensure patients receive personalised care at every stage of life. MOH’s new Healthier SG aims to do this. What does it mean to provide care at every stage of life?

      Dr Zafiruddin: To be able to know a patient and provide care at every stage of life means consistency, and I think every doctor would greatly appreciate this. Care and decision making would be more seamless. 

      6) How important is it to build relationships with patients as a Family Doctor?

      Dr Zafiruddin: Extremely important. Doctor-patient relationships are basically the essence of our service. Good rapport and strong relationships with patients will lead to trust, confidence, and treatment success. 

      7) Being a Family Doctor involves coordinating with multidisciplinary teams to provide comprehensive care to patients. Could you walk us through this process?

      Dr Zafiruddin: A family doctor can coordinate referrals to hospitals and various other disciplines as necessary. A common example would be writing up referral letters to specialists for further evaluation and management in restructured hospitals. 

      Also important is when a patient is discharged to the community. We can coordinate further care, be it for further therapies or community assistance, via the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC). 

      Another situation would be coordinating many ancillary services for chronic disease management. Some examples of this would be diabetic foot, eye screening and nurse counselling.

      8) Doctors play a role in promoting health and educating the public on healthcare and wellness. How important is this role in Singapore?

      Dr Zafiruddin: As well as providing basic health information and education, I think doctors nowadays play an even more unique role considering how overwhelmingly accessible health information is, which at times can be counterproductive. 

      Often, we see patients searching for answers about symptoms online which can trigger unnecessary anxiety, or with questions on numerous health supplements or products overclaiming questionable so-called benefits which may be harmful. Sadly, some will get tricked into consuming these products and become affected. 

      It’s more important than ever now for us to navigate the general public to the right information and evidence-based resources for better health in general. To provide reassurance and avoid harm. 

       9) What advice would you give to an aspiring Family Doctor?

      Dr Zafiruddin: One thing that we don’t talk about often I think, is to manage our own emotions. For example, some days somehow the clinic list can be long, with many difficult cases on top, we can get drained or overwhelmed, but please keep in mind that patients waiting outside may not understand our stress level and work nature, and we cannot expect that they do anyway. 

      I see often some of us can get upset or irritated and may transfer those emotions to our patients. This can lead to an unpleasant experience mutually. 

      I understand that doctors are also human, but in those situations, it would be good to take a quick pause before the next patient, to keep our cool and treat every patient professionally with kindness and respect. 

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