After graduation, I decided to put my Asian language abilities and American degree to use abroad in Singapore. I chose Singapore because there are four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, two of which I am fluent in. My US credentials were fully recognized by the Singapore Dental Council. After receiving a job offer from the Ministry of Health Holdings, I obtained my license as a general dentist within a few weeks. Having a special interest in community and pediatric dentistry, I requested to work at the Health Promotion Board (HPB), a local service organization that focuses on health promotion, disease prevention, and patient education.
HPB’s School Dental Service (SDS) provides free basic dental care for all Singaporean children age seven to 18 years old within the school dental clinics. For schools that are not equipped with a dental clinic, SDS deploys mobile dental clinics, each covering four to five schools in a year. Working as a dentist in Singaporean primary and secondary schools, I screened up to 40 students a day. I acquired speed and proficiency in executing exams, cleanings, restorations, extractions, and pulpal therapy.
My work required that I travel to various institutions to treat students, including schools for children with special health care needs or behavior barriers. Treating patients in remote locations via a mobile dental clinic was rewarding because often I was their only access to dental care. In addition, being stationed at a school gave me the advantage of responding to emergency situations immediately after they occur, as students often came in with accidental falls, loosened teeth, sports injuries, or abscesses. Besides clinical treatment, I was in charge of managing all aspects of the dental clinic, including scheduling patients, taking inventory, repairing equipment, and supervising the dental therapists and assistants. This was my first encounter with mid-level providers.
Singapore, with its immense cultural diversity, offered me the opportunity to learn and respect different customs and values while practicing dentistry. Being able to utilize my English, Mandarin, and Taiwanese helped to improve my communication skills with the patients and parents. Due to the demographics, I encountered dental anomalies that are not commonly seen in the US. I treated many Chinese patients with Dens Evaginatus, commonly referred to as “Leong’s Premolar.” I also managed cases of Molar Incisor Hypomineralization.
Being able to immerse myself in another culture and experience dentistry in a different country has helped me stretch personally and professionally. Although the learning curve was steep, the support I received from my colleagues and senior dentists in Singapore allowed me to take on each challenge with confidence. I was surrounded by dentists trained in the US, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia. The collaboration with dentists from around the world on diagnosis and treatment plan sparked interesting conversations and broadened my perspective of dentistry.
The year in Singapore far exceeded my expectations. I participated in a mission trip to Tacloban, Phillpines, and delivered dental treatments to the people who lost their homes during the devastating typhoon. In addition, I was invited to speak to the third year dental students at the National University of Singapore about my dental school experience in the US. During my spare time, I loved to explore different parts of town and sample the local cuisine. I traveled to Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and was able to go back to Taiwan to visit my family often. I spent 2014 new years on the beach and witnessed my first Formula 1 race.
Although my time in Singapore was short, I made many friends and established meaningful relationships that I know will last a lifetime. Singapore adds another exciting chapter to my life journey, and I could not imagine a more fulfilling way to have spent my year. In July 2014, I began my pediatric dental residency at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
~Dr. Peggy Chang, Harvard ’13