When Dr Martin Chio isn’t at his full-time job as a senior consultant at the National Skin Centre (NSC) & Chair of the Chapter of Dermatologists, Academy of Medicine Singapore, he finds time to volunteer. Every month, he applies his skills as a dermatologist - for free – with residents at Villa Francis nursing home and the Dover Park Hospice. This senior doctor has even roped in junior doctors and medical students to Villa Francis where they are taught the “heart of medicine”.
What inspired you to start volunteering?
It was during the period of SARS in 2003; many friends and colleagues were volunteering wherever they could. I heard that a clinic in Woodlands needed help so I started volunteering there.
Why did you decide to volunteer at Villa Francis and Dover Park Hospice?
I kind of “inherited” the dermatology service in 2009 to both Villa Francis and Dover Park Hospice from Dr Lawrence Leong. He was an Emeritus Consultant at the National Skin Centre, and I had worked with him previously. Dr Leong was retiring then and wanted to hand over. At that time, I was already volunteering a free clinic in Toa Payoh managing general cases. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to be more focused in using specialist skills to meet the need for such care in the community.
What is your role as a volunteer in the Home?
I pop by Villa Francis every first Saturday of the month. I start on the seventh floor and work my way down to the third floor. I may see between 30 and 40 patients. The nurses would highlight various skin conditions the residents have, which are amenable to treatment and creams. We have even managed a few skin cancer cases too. I advise and empower the nurses to make simple diagnoses and institute some initial treatment. We have submitted our improvement projects to AIC festivals and have won the following awards: a merit award for the ILTC Quality Festival poster competition in 2015; a gold team award for clinical quality improvement at the ILTC Excellence Awards 2016 and most recently a merit poster award for ILTC Quality & Productivity festival poster competition 2018.
Which part of the volunteer work motivates you?
It’s a fuzzy feeling in your heart. I feel that sometimes I benefit more from volunteering and contributing than the old folks from the care I provide. I value the camaraderie with residents and staff of Villa Francis, the patients’ relatives, and other volunteers such as students from the nearby Northland Primary School, with whom the home is ‘twinned’. The aim is to familiarise children with elderly care, while at the same time touching hearts & bringing the joy of youth to the elderly residents.
How do you encourage/inspire junior doctors to join you in volunteering at the Home?
I just ask them informally as they are quite a keen bunch. As an "added benefit", I provide bedside teaching of clinical dermatologic diagnoses without the benefit of having easy POCT (Point-of-care Testing) investigations.
How has the volunteer work impacted your junior doctors in the way they approach patients’ cases?
Some of them join me monthly during my rounds, so there is continuity of care as the skin condition improves; they also learn how teamwork with the nursing staff benefits the patients. For the patients that do not improve, the doctors learn how to reassess diagnoses or modify/escalate treatment, and after that continue to monitor progress.
Credit: Some information in this article was referenced with permission from the Mar-Apr 2016 issue of Lifewise, National Healthcare Group.