1) Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your work?
I am originally from Malaysia and I moved to New Zealand in 2004. I graduated from University of Auckland medical school in 2006. I am married with 2 kids. I am a GP practicing in Silverdale medical centre. We are in combined looking after around 1,500 patients and our main focus is to be an integrated family health care centre. I work 4 days a week in GP clinic, 1 day in private emergency primary care and 1 day in sleep clinic which is 8 months old. Currently, I am taking master courses in sleep medicine which I aim to finish in 2-4 years. Apart from work time, I enjoy competitive badminton which I play for the North Harbour club.
2) Before becoming engaged in primary care, you were interested in surgical pathology before. In fact , you receive training for it. What made you decide to shift career pathways from training in surgical pathology which I assume is quite specialised to become a GP and sleep specialist?
The reason I shifted the career pathway early on was because of a mixture of personal and family circumstances rather than the course itself. However, I really enjoyed the surgical pathology training in Palmerstone North. After I moved back to Auckland, I got invited to start working in private primary care. I saw it as a good opportunity so I started working as a GP from then on. One of the beauty about being a GP apart from it being family friendly is that there are a lot of varieties that you could chose from for the sleep medicine, I have only been recently interested in over around a year and a half ago when I saw a significant number of obstructive sleep apnoea. After that I took a short course about apnoea management in Sydney and decided that this is what I want to do as subspecialty and so I proceeded to enroll in master courses.
One beauty of beauty of being a GP is the very attractive work-life balance. My timetable is mostly flexible and that is very family friendly. I have two young children and it is nice to be able to spend time with them. Moreover, being a GP is a generally broad specialty and thus allows you to pursue all types of possible subspecialty such as dermatoscopy and ear suction in which I have special interest in.
3) As sleep medicine in primary care is new to New Zealand. Could you tell us a bit more about that.
The main issue that is currently being seen in primary care clinic is obstructive sleep apnoea which is mainly caused by mechanical obstruction of the upper airway. This can be easily managed by CPAP which is currently available for the specialty clinics. However, this issue is very common and I believe that it is very useful for primary care givers to be able to identify and take the first step in initial management the same ways GPs can manage depression or hypertension. Therefore, I am working on promoting primary care sleep medicine in New Zealand. In collaboration with Sleep GP Australia, I am introducing New Zealand this subspecialty and offering details for training if needed to our GPs. I hope that in the future, sleep problems will be commonly managed in primary care and that we could provide more effective treatments to all patients.
4) We thought it would be interesting to ask you about your sleep pattern as a sleep GP? Would you be able to tell us how you sleep?
Of course (laugh) I normally aim to sleep around 6-8 hours a night. But because my work timetable sometimes varies and I have a lot of activities, my bed time often varies too. In general, I sleep at 11.30 and wake up at 7.30.
5) You are also multilingual. You speak all English, Mandarin and Cantonese. How particularly helpful is that in terms of promoting health of Chinese community? Any examples of your experience with your patients?
I am from Malaysia and we speak a few languages there including English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay. I believe, just in general, being able to communicate with your patients in their own language helps you understand their problems better because it reduces barriers for patients who don't speak English natively. I feel like patients are willing to tell you in more details about their ideas and expectation. Overall, I think it is very helpful especially for primary physicians to be able to communicate in multiple languages.
6) Outside work time, what are you activities that you enjoy doing when you are free?
I really enjoy spending time with my family and watching my 2 children grow up happily. I also play competitive badminton for the North Harbor Club. Being GP is very good in terms of life balance and that it allows you to have spare time for your personal interest.