Dr. Andrea - profile

ThisQ_DrAndreaMedicine was my only choice. I’ve never thought of studying anything else. I decided to be a doctor since I was four when I was given a doctor’s suitcase for Christmas. It became my favourite toy, so I thought to be a doctor was a profession I wanted to do.

Dr Andrea Rajnakova,
gastroenterologist

She is, in all sense of the word, a foreign talent. But the journey for Slovakian doctor, Andrea Rajnakova to practice in Singapore as a physician and a gastroenterologist did not come without putting in double time. All because the “ medical university and the health system in Slovakia is different from Singapore which follows the British system”. After graduating with honors in 1992 and obtaining Master of Medicine (M.Med) Internal medicine with honors in 1995 in Slovakia, I had to relearn the routine and went for courses in UK as part of my preparation for Master of Medicine (M. Med) Internal Medicine (Singapore) and Member of Royal College of Physicians (UK) exams…” she chuckles.

The pretty doctor with the model good looks relocated to Singapore in the mid’90s when her husband, an IT professional was posted out here. The challenge at the time was to find their footing and blend in, as well as for Andrea to find a job. Giving up medicine was never an option for her, nor did she want to be a housewife – “Once you’re determined, you can’t be forced to do that. You will overcome all obstacles until you get through it,” she says emphatically. Her Slovak medical degree only allowed her to join the National University Hospital (NUH) as a fellow, and at the same time she did her doctorate in medical studies with the National University of Singapore (NUS).

By 2000, she had completed her PhD on gastric cancer, bagging The Young Doctor’s Research Award from NUH along the way, alongside other accolades. Next she obtained her Masters of Internal Medicine in Singapore, and then in 2001, she obtained her MRCP ( UK). She didn’t stop there however, but specialized further to become a gastroenterologist by 2005, a field she loved and chose because of her first boss in Slovakia, who was a gastroenterologist too. “He introduced me to the tips and tricks of the discipline, and I loved it!” she says enthusiastically. Being a gastroenterologist suits her because “it’s interventional and procedural. Procedures help us to diagnose and treat the disease, thus help a patient to recover faster and often prevent the disease from worsening. It’s very exciting.” she explains.

In all, Andrea spent 15 years with NUH, first as fellow and PhD student, then registrar, associated consultant and consultant at Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. She was very active in research and her main interests were gastric cancer, Helicobacter pylori, and colorectal cancer. She published number of research papers in international medical journals and she presented the results of her research at multiple regional and international conferences. She also mentored and trained advanced specialists and endoscopy trainees. Her passion for gastroenterology and endoscopy brought her for furher training in advanced endoscopic therapeutic procedure, ERCP, which she mastered during her HMDP in Rome, Italy. The next milestone in her career was opening her own practice in 2010. She tells candidly that her biggest worry, was a language because “despite blending into the system well, I am a foreign graduate, and European. I considered that I would have a big disadvantage in terms of Asian languages.”

It turned out to be an unfounded worry, and in the two years of her own practice, she’s never encountered any language problem. She attributes this to several factors: “Patients will always find you when they feel comfortable with you and they will refer their friends and relatives. . If you’re knowledgable, open, friendly, sincere and professional, patients will feel it,” she says. Her patients are mostly well educated and bi-lingual; foreign and elderly patients are usually accompanied by family members who speak English or Chinese. Another big advantage is having an excellent nurse – Andrea’s has been with her for 10 years, and she speaks Mandarin and several Chinese dialects – “she’s a very warm person and connects well with patients.” Andrea herself speaks several European languages, and she doesn’t need an interpreter when handling her European patients.

A constant challenge that Andrea does deal with is juggling work commitments and family. A mother of two – her son is nine and her daughter is seven, Andrea says while she’s devoted to her patients and practice, she still wants to be a hands-on mother.She has very supportive husband (they’ve been happily married for 20 years) . He used to travel frequently but now that the kids are growing up, he travels less, and helps out with kids school or their extra-curricular activities.

Andrea shares that being in private practice does give her a more flexible schedule as compared to working in a medical institution.

It’s a fine balance of course, but one she manages in stride, because gastroenterology is a dynamic field. There are many good specialists in both government sector and private practice, which means steep competition, she says. In medicine, especially gastroenterology new technologies and procedures are introducing in daily practice which allow us continuously to improve our knowledge and skills,” she says matter-of-factly.

Published in ThisQuaterly Annual 2012

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