General practice training the icing on the cake

18 March 2021

When Dr Pauline Teong started her undergraduate medical training in Singapore in 1995, there was a quota for women but not to ensure there was an equal gender mix, it was to limit the number of women doctors to a maximum of 30 trained a year.

“The year I gained admission 2000 candidates had applied and 150 were accepted; only 37 were women. It was thought at the time (by the school) that women didn’t make very good doctors because they’d ‘drop out’ when they had children to become stay-at-home mothers. Thankfully, the women who came before me petitioned and advocated for us and our numbers grew,” says Dr Teong. 

In early February 2021, and after 20 years working as a doctor, Dr Teong started her first year of the College’s General Practice Education Programme (GPEP) training in Hawke’s Bay. She’d known since age 15 that she wanted to be a doctor, but it wasn’t an easy road. Aside from the barriers of sexism, her parents couldn’t afford to send her to medical school for more than a year, so she had a job alongside her medical training and was lucky to be supported by her older siblings. 

“As I get more mature, I realise that I’m better at giving helpful sensible tips to young people and parents, I can support older people into their golden years, I and understand the needs of middle age people like me.”

Dr Teong brings a wealth of experience to her registrar training, having formerly been a surgical trainee in paediatric surgeon for two years in the United Kingdom (she also holds a Master’s degree in General Surgery) and team leader of a private emergency department in Singapore, as well as the Urgent Care Director at The Hastings Health Centre. These jobs fitted in around the birth of her two children.

Many GPs choose the general practice speciality because of the family life it affords, and Dr Teong is no different in that respect. However, it was also the promise of cake that got her here. As a child, when Pauline’s mother took her see the GP for a minor cough or cold, they’d always stop afterwards at the cake shop next door for a large slab of cake. It was a very sweet way to make medicine appealing. 

Today the speciality of general practice appeals for much different reasons. “General practice will allow me to have a continuity of care with my patients and to get to know them in depth.”

“As I get more mature, I realise that I’m better at giving helpful sensible tips to young people and parents, I can support older people into their golden years, I and understand the needs of middle age people like me,” says Dr Teong. 

“I’m interested in my rural population and love my job in Waipukurau. My patients are the reason I drive 40 minutes to work each morning because I love the community I serve,” she says.

Dr Teong is a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of Urgent Care and worked in ED for seven years.