Pioneer Women

Meet Helen Tan (left) and Catherine Chow (right) – two of Thomson Medical Centre’s (TMC) longest-serving staff. Both began working for the hospital when it was a humble clinic 40 years ago. We speak to them to find out how their career started at TMC, their memorable moments and what keeps them committed to the Thomson family



Helen Tan’s love for helping others has its roots in her eagerness to care for hurt animals when she was a young girl. “I would use plasters for my pets whenever they were injured,” Helen says. So, it was only natural that the then 18-year-old decided to become a nurse, so she could help people. She walked in for an interview at Thomson Medical one day, and voila, landed the job. Recalls Helen, “Back then, Thomson Medical was just a small space. I worked in several departments, including the maternity ward and the outpatient clinic. I moved to the paediatric ward when I requested to work night shifts permanently as I needed time in the day to take classes to upskill, like typing.” Today, Helen tends to babies with jaundice. She carries out tasks like checking vital signs, assisting doctors with procedures, and advising parents on how to deal with their baby’s jaundice. For Helen, the best thing about working at Thomson Medical is the strong sense of family among colleagues, and even her patients. “My co-workers are some of my closest friends. We spend a lot of time together outside of work, even going on overseas trips together. This is one of the reasons I love coming to work every day and why I am still with TMC,” Helen says. Over the decades, she has also built good relationships with many of her patients and their family members. “I will never forget them. There was this one little boy who was in and out of the hospital visiting his pregnant mother for about a month. We got along, so he would look for me all the time. Eventually, his mother got well and was discharged. Sometime later while passing by Thomson Medical with his parents, he insisted on dropping by to see me and gave me something to snack on! I thought it was really thoughtful of him and his parents. This is why I say everyone’s treated like family here at TMC!”



Catherine Chow takes her work very seriously. Her job requires her to wash and sterilise instruments used in surgeries. When asked about what has kept her going after all these years, Catherine says: “Knowing that procedures carried out in the hospital are safe because of my efforts makes me feel good.” Catherine – a self-professed workaholic – had started out working in a different hospital which, coincidentally, was where Thomson Medical’s founder, Dr W C Cheng, was also practising in then. When the opportunity came to work at Thomson Medical, Catherine was handpicked by a fellow nurse who knew Dr Cheng. At that time, Catherine was ready for a change of environment and since she wanted to work for a smaller hospital, she took the job and never looked back. Things were different when she first started 40 years ago. “Back then, we didn’t have many instruments and tools to work with. We also had to prepare everything manually. Now with technology, many processes and procedures are automated, which frees me to concentrate on other necessary tasks, like admin work.” As one of the pioneers of the Central Supply Sterile Unit (CSSU), Catherine had the privilege of flying to Ho Chi Minh City when TMC signed a consultancy agreement with a healthcare service in the Vietnamese city: “I helped set up their CSSU and trained about 15 staff to make sure the standard is maintained there as it is here.” Today, Catherine is in her 70s and content with her career. Her wish for TMC’s 40th birthday is that the centre never stops growing and that its quality services can extend to all corners of the globe.