This Teacher’s Day, we speak with Associate Professor Kwah Li Khim, Deputy Cluster Director of Health and Social Sciences at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) on her work as an allied healthcare educator.
A/Prof Kwah (top row, first from the right) hanging out in the classroom with her students. Photo taken pre-COVID.
In her youth, A/Prof Kwah Li Khim loved hockey and trained day and night and aspired to be a hockey coach.
“My mum had this suggestion. ‘Why don’t you work towards becoming a sports doctor (she meant physiotherapist) so that you can do both?’ #Smartestmumever!”
However, her journey in physiotherapy was not all smooth-sailing. As a student, she often felt nervous and blanked out whenever she felt others were watching her. Fortunately, her clinical educator at that time was there as a quiet pillar of support.
“I think my clinical educator could see that I was trying my best, and was worried that my nerves would affect my patient’s recovery. She actually whispered to my patient to not let me know that she was assessing me quietly in the background! In the end, I failed the mid-unit assessment but passed the placement in the end. She was one of those educators who was very tough, but had a kind heart.”
A/Prof Kwah (bottom row, first on the right) posing for a fun photo with her students. Photo taken pre-COVID.
For A/Prof Kwah, returning to her alma mater to nurture young minds alongside her ex-lecturers and ex-tutors was a dream come true. As an educator, she passes down the kindness she had once received to those now under her tutelage.
“One of my students had displayed remarkable resilience. Life was not easy for him and he had failed his neuro-physiotherapy placement. I knew how sad he was, and spent some time helping him with his clinical reasoning. He went for his second attempt and outdid himself. It really doesn’t matter if you fail, but what you choose to do after that is what counts.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that A/Prof Kwah has to conduct most of her lessons online. While it is efficient, it is harder to establish rapport with her students over a screen. To combat the issue, she uses various methods to keep her classes engaging.
“Team-based learning and breakout rooms are helpful to stimulate discussions. Occasionally, I post videos or quizzes as prep work for my students to complete prior to class, and these are used as starting points for conversations.”
As Deputy Cluster Director of Health and Social Sciences at SIT, A/Prof Kwah is proud of what her department has achieved.
“SIT is the only university in Singapore that offers undergraduate programmes in allied health courses. We nurture allied health professionals who are theoretically-grounded and clinically-oriented to practise independently. After four years, students graduate with a Bachelor’s degree with honours. They will get to work with different healthcare professionals to improve the lives of patients in hospitals, senior care centres and nursing homes.”
As an educator, A/Prof Kwah hopes to encourage youths to join physiotherapy and other allied health professions.
“To interested youths: Allied health is a versatile branch of healthcare which allows you to travel, and even branch out into management, research or academic teaching if you wish to diverge from the clinical career pathway.
Pursue your dreams if you love people and the science behind the human body!”