ST Feb 5, 2006
From IT expert to struggling medical student
At 30, she decides to be a doctor - tough switch but she has no regrets
By Jean Loo
WHAT would make someone give up a successful career as a computer engineer and, at the age of 30, study to be a doctor instead?
It is an unconventional choice, but one that 33-year-old Devi Ng had no trouble making.
For eight years, Ms Ng was the epitome of the urban IT professional, working as an analyst programmer for the Ministry of Defence and then as a systems engineer at the Land Transport Authority, where she helped develop the ez-link system.
But in 2002, after her three-year marriage fell apart, she decided to take a different path.
Now she is on the long road through medical school - a story she felt was so inspiring that she asked a journalism student friend to write it down and send it to The Sunday Times.
When we interviewed Ms Ng yesterday, she said her marriage had failed because she was determined to keep working despite objections from her former husband.
'I was in a period of depression, wondering what else could I do with my life.'
A newspaper advertisement offering a part-time distance learning degree in bio medical sciences, offered by the University of Central Queensland, changed her life.
Ms Ng immediately registered for the course, which cost her $12,000.
Channelling her spare time after work into the three-year course, Ms Ng graduated in a mere 1 1/2 years, scoring distinctions for most subjects and
making it onto the Dean's List, despite her lack of background in science.
She also had to juggle family commitments. The sudden death of her father in 1994 had left her the sole breadwinner.
'The money was good, so I stayed on in IT till my two younger brothers found jobs.'
She is now a first-year medical student at the International Medical University (IMU) in Malaysia and will serve a three-week attachment at the Changi General Hospital as part of her course.
Once she has completed her foundation studies in 2008, she hopes to move on
to the next phase of her medical training at the University of Queensland.
She plans to use her savings to pay for part of her course fees, which will cost about $200,000 for the next four years.
If all goes to plan, Ms Ng will graduate in 2010, at the age of 37.
It has been a tough switch from successful professional to struggling student but she has no regrets.
'As a doctor, I can see the patient getting better and that will be the best motivation to keep on working. In IT, projects can drag on for years and it
becomes very meaningless.
'I am fine giving up the chance to start a family, because I've found my true calling, which is to be a doctor and help other people.'
I might be missing something here. But I have some difficulty seeing why the average reader is supposed to find this story inspiring. Instead, I see:
- - a marriage that failed in double quick time;
- a bout of depression;
- eight years wasted on an IT career that the person found "very meaningless";
- the loss of a chance to start a family;
- an impending huge expenditure of more than $200,000 on her medical studies;
- a relatively shorter career as a doctor (due to the fact that she'll be starting late);
- immense opportunity costs;
- a medical degree from Malaysia (IMU) which I suspect may not be recognised in Singapore; and
- Singapore losing a seasoned, experienced IT professional for a rookie, wet-behind-the-years doctor .