Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1390. Talk to the Raffles Society of Biological Students

Suzanne Ou
8:30 AM (21 hours ago)

to me, daniel
Dear Dr Sing,
I have checked with my teacher and you can come at 4.15pm to upload the video as the lecture theatre will be occupied at 3pm. As per arranged early, I can meet you at Manna Cafe beside the school visitor's carpark.
Would it also be possible for you to send us a short excerpt so that we can introduce you to the students? The students are also very eager to hear from a real vet and it would be good if you can share your experiences rather then have everything conveyed purely through the video.
Once again, we would really like to thank you for taking time off and agreeing to come down this Thursday, and look forward to it!
Suzanne O

Kong Yuen Sing <99pups gmail.com="">
6:19 AM (0 minutes ago)

to jasonxll, Suzanne, daniel
I missed this email till now, April 25, 2013. Will be present at 4.15pm. Pl phone me if there are changes.

Short excerpt and sharing of memories for the young ones of the Raffles Biological Society in RI Year 5-6 students April 25, 2013 talk.

APRIL 25, 2013
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS. 62 years old.
Founder of Toa Payoh Vets, Asia USA Realty (S) asiahomes.com, Be Kind To Pets, Design Travel Pte Ltd.

1962 - 1968. Raffles Institution from Sec 1 to Pre-U 2 (Year 1-6 nowadays?). I was in one of the two Pre-U Medicine classes. There were 14 classes for Secondary 1. Three boys from my Bukit Merah Primary School got places in RI.

The old RI probably attracted the top male students from all the Primary Schools in Singapore. The old RI did not have competitors like Hwa Chong Institution, if you don't count a rich man's school as competitor.

My father picked two other choices for me. They were Gan Eng Seng and Victoria Secondary Schools. I had never heard of RI when I was in Primary Six, showing how ignorant of the education system I was. How did I qualify for Sec 1 of RI?

My father had this motivation system for his 4 children. $5 if I top the class, $4 for 2nd position ... to increasing number of strokes of the cane for 40th position. I was not motivated by the money. I had good teachers whom I visited during Chinese New Year.

My motivation to study hard was the excitement of going up to receive a book prize for being the top 3 students annually in the primary school. I had a nemesis - a girl from Telok Ayer who would fight with me for being first in class. Competition is never absent.

The strive for academic excellence has been snuffed out by the government in 2013 as it does not want to "stress" the students and parents by publicising the top students and school performance. However, in real life, excellent academic results still open doors to choice jobs and top remuneration. So, do study hard. No free lunch.  .    

1969 - 1974  Glasgow University School of Veterinary Medicine. Colombo Plan Scholarship. 8-year-old bond with the AVA (Agri-food & Veterinary Authority).
1974 - 1976 Full-time National Service after graduation. SAF Provost Unit Officer & guard and tracker dog vet, This service is included in the 8-year-old bond.
1977 - 1982 Pig and chicken government vet for the AVA for nearly 8 years
1982 - 1990. Singapore Turf Club racehorse vet.
1982.  Started up Toa Payoh Vets at Blk 1002, Toa Payoh Lor 8, 01-1477
1991 - 2013 Dog & Cat vet at Toa Payoh Vets, www.toapayohvets.com.

Those who have benefited from the education system. It is important to give back to society. I started community education www.bekindtopets.com for vet students and pet owners in 1977 when the world wide web was introduced.

I have  started www.asiahomes.com and www.designtravelpl.com - respectively a licensed realty and travel agency focused on Myanmar travel and tours.  

Veterinary Science Talk To:
Members of The Raffles Society of Biological Sciences
Students Year 5-6, Raffles Institution (Junior College)
April 25, 2013   5.30pm  - 6.30pm, Lecture Theatre 5

I am Dr Sing Kong Yuen, veterinary surgeon, Toa Payoh Vets, www.toapayohvets.com. 
Thank you for your invitation.

When I was taking my Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) at Bukit Merah Primary School in 1966, I had never heard of Raffles Institution (RI). My father recommended RI as one of the 3 choices. RI was located where Raffles City is. There were 14 Secondary One classes.

All 640 male classmates from Year 1 to Year 6. The high walls of the Convent of the Infant Holy Jesus ensured that RI boys would not see any of the Convent girls and so RI boys studied hard without the distractions of puppy love and heart breaks, a situation I expect to exist in the Bishan campus.

In 2013, I had two female vet interns from RI Year 6. Both got straight As. For one of them, I asked her whether the tall young man meeting her for lunch in the restaurant behind my Surgery was her boyfriend. She did not sound committed to me. A tall, good-looking, intelligent and rich young man. Good looks and wealth. He may not win the girl of his heart. She has so many choices as she networks.  I feel that the odds are not in his favour as young love is a flitting butterfly. When I was in Year 6, I was trying to get a date via the "pen-pal" columns of student magazines as the whole of RI was a monastery.    

Back to the realities of the veterinary profession, your Chairman, Ms Ou Suzanne Xianran is well organised  as she wanted me to share my insights as a veterinary surgeon with reference to the five topics:

1. What lead you to choose veterinary medicine as my career?
2.  Challenges and joys of my career.
3.  Animals and conditions I come across commonly in my field, especially in Singapore.
4.  Relationship between veterinary medicine and veterinary medicine.
5.  Opportunities for aspiring vets in Singapore or overseas.

 1. What lead you to choose veterinary medicine as my career?My father was the sole breadwinner earning $600/month working for the Ministry of Culture. He would support his 4 children up to "A" levels. We could become teachers. I was in one of the two Pre-U Medicine classes in Year 6. All of us wanted to be doctors. Single-minded. No distractions from pretty young things.

At that time, doctors had to find jobs in Hong Kong and so no medical scholarships were offered. I applied for and received a Colombo Plan scholarship given by the British Government to study veterinary science in Glasgow University in 1969 at the age of 19 years old. My family in Redhill Close did not keep dogs but I used to share my bread with a nursing stray female dog making her den on the landing of the first floor of the Redhill flat. Now stray dogs are quite extinct in Singapore but they were being cornered and shot-gunned by the government in those days and I felt so sad for them.

2.  Challenges and joys of my career.
The challenges and joys of my career from 1974 - 2013, nearly 4 decades as a veterinarian are numerous and I will highlight 3 of each.


1. MORE PAY.  I had to serve an 8-year bond as an employee vet in the predecessor of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) as a government vet. I had no choice as to where I wanted to work. I would like to work in the Animal Infirmary where the Kandang Kerbau Hospital is located, treating dogs and cats but there was no vacancies. The AVA's role was to regulate and provide veterinary services to the pig and chicken farmers at that time.  The annual increment was $50/month and promotions were few for the technical man.

Soon my wife earned more than me as she was in the Information Technology field at the Ministry of Defence. Most likely she is the corporate type. She was promoted into senior management responsible for 200 staff. I was just a technical guy and only in management can there be more pay. My wife told me frankly that I would never make it in the corporate world. Don't be a practising vet if you want to earn more but you must have what it takes to play office politics.

No family wealth. I started Toa Payoh Vets with my own money unlike many of the younger vets nowadays. Their parents provide financing for their studies and for starting up a practice.  

Most Singaporeans will visit a veterinary practice near their homes as they are time-pressed. When I started up, there were around 7 practices. Now there are over 50. So, the number of clientele must drop unless the practice is located where there are no nearby vets.

5. UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION (USP).  It will be hard for the average practice to have a USP.   


As a government vet, there was the half Saturday, Public Holidays, Sundays and two weeks' leave per year. This was great. DINK (dual income no kids). I would think of which model of car to buy every 3 years. A low-interest housing loan and prices of houses were much more affordable in the 1980s.

As the owner of a private practice, at Toa Payoh Vets, the hours must be long as clients work office hours and can only send their pets for treatment after office hours. The vet must be there or suffer loss of clients to the over 50 veterinary practices in Singapore.  Brand-name does attract the Singaporean pet owner who can pay the higher fees.

The Singapore Turf Club has a "Junior Veterinary Surgeon" vacancy in 1982. I got a job for 8 years and this was a unique situation.  Accommodation, car and private practice were part of the package. I could rent out my house and not have to maintain a car. In 1988, the Singapore Totalisator Board took over and I resigned as I was offered $5,000/month with no house and car. I went back to Toa Payoh Vets to build up the practice as I had neglected it since I was working in the Singapore Turf Club and had difficulty employing good vets. 






Murdoch University 6 years   S$27,000 (S$34,380) x 1;  A$46,000x5 = S$58,576 x5.

Univ of Glasgow School of Vet Medicine   5 years.   GBP 24,000 x5.   (S$45,503) x 5.

Make A Difference -
Giving Back to the Community - Be Kind To Pets
Helping the Disadvantaged - Myanmar vets

Animals encountered by me
Pigs, chickens  - viral diseases
Racehorses, polo club horses  - lameness
Small animals - diarrhoea, skin diseases, ear diseases, tumours in dogs. cat falls, bladder blocked.

Vet med and human med
Zoonosis - ringworm and rabies
Difficulty for young vets - need to perform surgeries in sick pets esp. hamsters . 

Management and drug sales support
Private practice >50 small animal practices
Myanmar, Cambodia,
UK, USA - anti-foreigner visas




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