Mothers are important but in the era of gender equality, the team at SG Lifestyle wanted to be sure that fathers are not left behind and hence, have lined up two inspiring stories to celebrate fathers, and the roles they play in shaping their children’s lives.
Kicking off this Father’s Day week, is an interview with 74 year old Dr Robert Tan and his son, 43 year old Dr Lincoln Tan, both of whom are Consultant Urologists working hand in hand at Tan Urology, the practice Dr Robert Tan founded in 1984 at Gleneagles Medical Centre. Read on and see for yourself the chemistry, love and respect the father and son duo have for each other.
SGLS: How was it like, working together, at the start?
Dr Lincoln Tan: It was a smooth start as my father and I had always been close. He gave me free rein to renovate his clinic and update our medical records system and workflow. He had already spread the news to his colleagues and other employees at Gleneagles Hospital that I was joining him, so when I started work at Tan Urology, many of my new colleagues knew me and I very quickly warmed up to the new working environment.
In terms of responsibilities, I manage the daily operations, so my dad gets to spend more time seeing his patients. Sometimes we also operate on patients together.
Patients choose us because of our different subspecialty interests. My father’s patients also enjoy the continuity of care where after I operate on them, they still get to continue to see him for follow-up.
In fact, one of our patients recently quipped, “buy one, get two!”
SGLS: Dr Robert, what sparked you to study medicine and specialise in Urology all those years ago? Do you think you were the inspiration behind your son’s choice of profession?
Dr Robert Tan: Medicine was my calling. When I was training as a surgeon in Australia, Urology was just developing as a distinct surgical specialty. I was inspired by my Urology mentors, who were pioneers in the field, to specialise and be amongst the first Urologists in Singapore.
I am very happy that both my children followed my footsteps and became surgeons. My daughter, Pearlie, is the Head of Plastic Surgery at Sengkang General Hospital. I think sharing about my work at home may have inspired them to join the medical profession.
SGLS: Dr Lincoln, what was it like growing up with a father who is an accomplished Urologist? What spurred you to study medicine and specialise in urology?
Dr Lincoln Tan: My father often shared about his work including interesting anecdotes, such as the time he operated on a poor man whose genitals were bitten by a snake, or how the Singapore Zoo consulted him on how to treat a chimpanzee with kidney stones. While he worked very hard with long hours, he always looked like he enjoyed his work. Sometimes, he would take my sis and me to ward rounds, so the hospital environment always felt like a welcoming place to me.
My dad always told me how much he enjoyed being a Urologist, and how satisfying it was to help people as an occupation. This inspired me to study medicine.
After graduation, I knew I wanted to be a surgeon. Being able to heal patients with my hands, brought a lot of professional satisfaction.
After my first Urology posting at National University Hospital (NUH), I could see why my father was so happy to be a Urologist. There were a wide variety of interesting cases, which we could treat with both medicine as well as surgery, and there were many surgical toys to “play” with in Urology. My colleagues were good humoured and I had a great time there. This sealed my decision to specialise in Urology.
SGLS: What are some trends you’d noticed amongst your patients in recent years? What should patients do to prevent or seek medical help?
Dr Lincoln Tan: We have noticed more patients being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thankfully, we are finding that patients are coming earlier with curable early stage cancer, and are diagnosing late stage incurable disease less frequently than before.
Prostate cancer is a disease of older gentlemen, and as our local life expectancy increases, we can expect to find more men with prostate cancer.
Changes in our diet and environment can potentially reduce the risk of prostate cancer. This is illustrated nicely by a study that showed while Japanese men living in Japan have the lowest risk of prostate cancer in the world, the sons of Japanese men who migrated to the USA, have similar risk of prostate cancer as Caucasian Americans, who have one of the highest risk of prostate cancer globally.
Prostate cancer is very curable when detected early, so men should talk to their doctors about prostate cancer screening when they reach 50 years old (earlier if they have a family history of prostate cancer), and don’t ignore urinary symptoms such as waking up more frequently at night or slower urinary flow.
SGLS: What are the typical topics you discuss at family dinners? Also, Dr Lincoln, do you hope for your daughters to read medicine too?
Dr Lincoln Tan: We usually talk about current affairs, and being foodies, we often talk about food! Of course, with four doctors (my wife is also a doctor) in the family, we often stray into “shop talk”.
Today’s youths have many new career options and opportunities in fields that didn’t even exist when I was young. So while I have enjoyed my career, I have not steered my two daughters towards medicine, but have instead encouraged them to develop their interests, and see how they align with these new opportunities.
Bonus Q (for Dr Lincoln): How has your father inspired you? Do you have a special message for him this Father’s Day?
Dr Lincoln Tan: My dad has a motto that “You may come as a patient, but you leave as a friend”. And I have met many of these patients turned friends as I grew up. His dedication and strong work ethics, good humour and the ability to connect with people from all stations and walks of life have inspired me to become the best doctor I can be.
My message to my Dad: “Thank you for raising me, inspiring me and for always being there for me. I love you dad.”
Tan Urology is located at 6 Napier Rd, #05-03 Gleneagles Medical Centre, Singapore 258499 | Tel: +65 6732 6503 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by: Angela May Tan, Column Editor & Writer.
Still looking for a gift for Father’s Day? Read our Guide on the Ultimate Father’s Day Gift for ideas.