Question and Answers
(excerpts from a recent interview with Hill Health Magazine)
Hill Health: What led you to become a doctor?
Dr. Tan: I do not exactly remember what led me to become a doctor. In fact, ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a doctor. When I was a young girl, about 5 or 6 years old, I actually always wanted to play doctor. I would make all my friends be patients so I could examine them by listening to their hearts and lungs. For some reason, I guess, I have always had an innate drive to want to care for people. However, as I got older, I did not know if I had the “brain power” or intelligence or financial resources to become a doctor. But when my grandmother died secondary to complications from a hip replacement surgery and when, during a robbery, my father sustained a gunshot wound that severed his carotid artery and when the doctors saved him, my desire to be a physician solidified. I became determined to go to medical school. So, I guess the helplessness that resulted from my grandmother’s death from a simple surgery and the hopefulness that resulted from my dad’s saved life both greatly influenced my final decision to pursue medicine.
Hill Health: What qualities does a great doctor have?
Dr. Tan: A great doctor should incorporate evidence-based medicine, clinical guidelines, standard of care, and the Hippocratic oath into the practice of medicine. I always aim to customize these for each of my individual patient's conditions. I may be kind of a traditionalist in this way, but I believe good science and ethical treatment has to be behind all of my clinical decisions. I believe these are centrally important in my own approach to medicine.
Hill Health: What three words best describe your approach to medicine?
Dr. Tan: Listen, care, knowledge. I think a great doctor must have all three of these qualities. What good is a doctor if they care and listen, but don’t know what to do. Or if they are caring and knowledgeable, but don’t listen? I always strive to do all three, but I am human and I know I am not perfect.
Hill Health: What keeps you motivated when practicing medicine?
Dr. Tan: I love practicing medicine. It actually energizes me. Sometimes I come to the office tired and not feeling well physically, and before I know it, I am racing room to room seeing patients. It is hard to say exactly what it is that motivates me. As I said before, it is something that I have always wanted to do – I guess it just fits me.
Hill Health: What concerns you most when seeing a patient?
Dr. Tan: What concerns me most is to make sure that I get it right and that a patient does not have a bad outcome because I did not know enough or because I did not get the proper diagnosis.
Hill Health: If there was one piece of advice you could share with your patients, what would it be?
Dr. Tan: If there was one piece of advice that I could share it would be to stay active, physically and mentally; to be grateful for all the things in life, big and small; and to see the positive in people and situations. I am sorry, that was more than one. Also, to keep a positive outlook, to think of the positive things in life. Eat healthy and exercise. I guess I could go on forever. I actually would like to write a book about this.
Hill Health: What question do you get asked the most by your patients?
Dr. Tan: “Can you repeat, again, what you said.” One of my weakness is that speak too fast and that my voice is a little soft. I do try to slow down, though, and speak clearly – but sometimes I have so much I want to share with my patients that I forget to speak slowly. Obviously, I always want my patients to understand me.
Hill Health: Tell me an interesting or fun fact about Lorena Tan that your patients may not know. How do you like to spend your time?
Dr. Tan: My patients don’t know that I grew up poor in Burma and that when I was young, my grandfather began a famous restaurant in Burma.
I like to spend my time reading and running. When I am reading, however, I feel that I should be running; and when I am running, I feel like I should be reading. So now, I run and listen to audio books. Much more efficient.
Also, one fun fact that my patients will definitely not guess about me is that I played on my high school basketball team (I was a point guard). My patients would never guess this because I am not a tall person (but I am super fast). :-) he he