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Meet June Goh, high-flying doctor-teacher, family woman, and fashionista

Ahead of Dover Park Hospice’s 25th anniversary gala, this multi-faceted doctor talks about cherishing every moment, even at the end of life.

A few days ago, Dr June Goh apologised for missing my email because she had too many messages to process. But, after reading up on her various roles and responsibilities, I was amazed that her turnaround time was only a few days.

Goh is a senior consultant in Singapore General Hospital and the director of Neuroanaesthesia and Neurocritical Care. On top of teaching medical students and doctors at Duke-NUS Medical School and Yong Loo Lin Medical School, she is president of Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, which champions women’s rights in all fields; chair of Star budding researcher’s award and transplant oversight committee; and member of the governing council of the Dover Park Hospice, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with a stunning silver-themed event on Aug 25.

I ask her about her support for palliative care and how she packs in work, charity work, life outside of work, and still manages to look stunning on the red carpet. There are similarities between medicine and high fashion, it turns out.

  • At the Sunflower Gala Ball last year with her Dover Park Hospice co-chair in fundraising Joy Tan.

Can you describe a typical day at work?

My department usually holds teaching or meetings at 7.15am. Operating lists start at 8.15am and we work continuously until the cases are done. There is no allocated lunch hour. It’s so funny that after so many years, my husband still checks, on and off, if I can join him for lunch, and the answer is inevitably no. During the day, we have residents and occasionally medical students with us so teaching is very much part of the job. Over the years the amount of paper work has increased eg student/resident/staff evaluations, policies to write or review, development of teaching material etc. Research and adminstrative work also come with the job.

How do you carve out time for family and personal pursuits? 

Sleep deprivation! Now that the kids are older, it is actually getting them to carve out time for us. I try to have meals, see plays with mum and mum-in-law regularly. We travelled to Sri Lanka together this year and the last musical we watched was La Cage aux Folles by Wild Rice.

Name three things that give you the most joy.

Family, friends and travel.

What to you is a tragedy?

For me it would be regret. The tragedy I see often at work is severely vegetative patients who lose all power of decision making and having loved ones unable to take the heavy responsibility of making difficult choices for them, leaving them in the state of absolute protracted suffering.

You are passionate about fashion. Are there any similarities between fashion and medicine?

Yes! One can approach both in a similar way. By observation, research, reading, experimentation and learning from others.

How would you describe your fashion sense? And has it changed over the years?

I have definitely changed over the years, perhaps more confident and less needing of approval. I don’t have a definite style I subscribe to. It swings between feminine, floral, to minimal and austere. I wear scrubs, cap and mask  at work so it is very low maintenance, no make-up, jewellery, manicures or blow-dries required. I get creative and adventurous at events after work.

What brands have the longest staying power with you?

Oscar de la Renta, Celine and Lai Chan. I don’t specifically look to refresh my wardrobe. Once in a few seasons, a new trend may catch my eye and I will try it out eg the current Fendi sockboot with Marie Antoinette references or Gucci’s very embellished grandma chic. The stuff I outgrow go to my daughter or the New2U Thrift Shop. The Shop which is one of SCWO’s (Singapore Council Of Women’s Organisation) is managed entirely by volunteers.

You always look fabulous at events. Have you ever had any embarrassing fashion moments?

I always dress in a rush so I have put on skirts that I have outgrown and were too tight to be zipped up fully. Another instance was wearing a dress I had purchased on sale and tried on in a rush, discovering only too late that it was a little too revealing. Shawls can be a life-saver in the above situations.

Can women have it all?

Yes, but only with a lot of support and understanding from family, colleagues, friends and helpers. No different from a man. We mustn’t aim to have it all sacrificing important aspects of our lives like health or family. Success is all about balance.

What inspired you to support Dover Park Hospice?

Dover Park Hospice is a secular non-profit organisation that is open to patients regardless of age, race, religion or the ability to pay. They and the services they provide tugged at my heart as they use a holistic approach in terms of providing comfort, symptom relief, and palliative care and support to patients with advanced terminal illnesses, and support for patients’ grieving families. Since 1995, we have brought care and comfort to more than 11,00 terminally-ill patients.

The motto of the hospice is, “Every Moment Matters”. This means giving meaning to life is an ongoing process that need not be reserved for the last stage of life. Palliative care isn’t about dying, it’s about living every last moment that you have. It’s about making sure that every moment that you have with your loved ones count, all the way to the very end. This is what touched my heart and why I am on board with the hospice.

What are you most excited about in this year’s ball?

It commemorates our 25th Silver Anniversary. This year, our Sunflower Gala Ball is themed A Sterling Affair and will transport guests into a space decked out with light and geometric patterns, to embark on a multi-sensory journey.

Our volunteers have put so much effort into every aspect of this dinner to make it special. They and the Dover Park Hospice staff have folded more than 1,600 origami doves to be used as part of the table centrepiece for the dinner.

Our in-house volunteer show choir, Gems, has also dedicated weeks of hard work to rehearsing for this event. Like last year, all their outfits were specially designed by students from Raffles College of Higher Education, inspired by hip hop, street style and neon lights.

What will you be wearing that night?

Something futuristic with a silver accent!

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