The Doctor with Toys for the Big Boys – Interview with Dr Chin Pak Lin

February 25, 2014

Dr Chin Pak Lin

For most people, engineering and medicine are poles apart. You either have a passion for healing and making the sick better or an inclination towards designing systems and structures. For Dr Chin Pak Lin, Consultant within the Adult Reconstructive Service in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), however, the two actually complement each other.

As a child, Dr Chin had always liked taking things apart and analysing them; thus, he dreamt of becoming an engineer. Born in Malaysia to a family of five – his dad was a high school teacher and his mom a homemaker, Dr Chin never thought of becoming a doctor. He was awarded an engineering scholarship after his SRP “O” levels in Malaysia. He was excited at the opportunity but eventually found out that it was not his true calling. Not long after, another opportunity opened for him. He was awarded the ASEAN scholarship to pursue his “A” levels at the National Junior College. He entered the National University of Singapore (NUS) Medical School despite reservations from his dad. “As my family were not really well-off, I had to finance my education from a bank loan, like most Malaysians,” he shared. And the rest, like all interesting stories, is history. “All these challenges in life helped to shape my character to be more resilient.”

Dr Chin graduated from NUS in 1998 and obtained both his post-graduate Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh as well as his Masters of Medicine in Orthopaedic Surgery in 2003. He subsequently obtained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Orthopaedic Surgery in 2007. Dr Chin’s expertise lies in hip and knee replacement using the latest techniques. This includes joint preservation techniques and major reconstruction. He is a regional expert in computer-aided techniques and most recently robotic assisted surgery.

Ezyhealth has recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the country’s brilliant orthopaedic surgeons.

All Roads Led to Medicine

EH: Among other specialisations, what attracted you to orthopaedic surgery?

Dr Chin: Medicine, I must admit, was not my primary goal in life. My dream was to be an engineer and nearly made it with the scholarship obtained after my SRP “O” levels whilst studying in Malaysia. Since I managed to get into medical school in NUS, life has been tough. I was not prepared to be a doctor. But luckily, a posting in surgery made me see the light. I fell in love instantly! In the orthopaedic practice, I can enjoy being a doctor and indulge myself in a myriad of big boys’ toys.

EH: What do you find most satisfying about your job?

Dr Chin: My wife says I am a workaholic! Not really! I just love my job! You see, being a doctor is not just about healing the sick. There is really so much more to it and it is really rewarding. The medical profession is still regarded as a noble profession where society holds us in high regard. We save lives, and often many of us dedicate our lives to our profession, even neglecting our own. I have known some of them, like the heroes during the SARS outbreak. We are also teachers to our students and colleagues. Thus, with the unique skills I have acquired, I have been able to travel far to share my expertise and knowledge in medical missions, conferences and workshops. I have the best passport to travel! My medical expertise has opened new doors to places that I didn’t even know exist. Such poverty serves to remind me on the blessings that I have now and why I should return to help my colleagues improve their standards. Of Surgery and Technology

EH: You specialise in complex joint replacement surgery. What are the latest techniques available in Singapore now?

Dr Chin: I have always wanted to do joint replacement surgery because the outcomes are the most consistent and favourable. Although by training I am supposed to be doing rescue or “revision” surgeries, i.e. complex surgeries, my pet interests are into computer-aided technologies, minimally-invasive techniques, and robotic surgery. I fervently believe that there are two types of surgeons – followers and innovators. The latter can bear both success and failure. Like a TCM practitioner, most surgeons often practice the way they were trained. For me, the training serves as the foundation. From my “tinkering” childhood ways, I challenge the way things are done to be the Gospel truth. Thus, I am lucky to have brought new “toys” into Singapore: Computer Navigation – at SGH I am blessed to have seven different systems at my disposals, Patient-Specific Jigs – customised jigs for patients and implants, and Robotic Knee system – the only one in the Southeast Asia other than Korea, Japan and India.

EH: What are the common injuries and disorders do you treat at SGH?

Dr Chin: Total hip and knee replacement remains the bulk of my work. Most of the complex revisions and infections are also handled by me. That’s great as this focused referral helps to build my experience quickly. Humanitarian and Daddy Duties

EH: You do volunteer work not only in community hospitals here but in Cambodia as well. Tell us a little bit about it.

Dr Chin: For a while now, I have been doing my rounds at the AMK Community. During these visits I offer my advice as an Orthopaedic Surgeon to help relieve the burden for immobile patients from traveling between hospitals for consultation. Thanks to Prof Tay Boon Keng, who has often guided me on the correct path to return back to society. In the Cambodia project, I work with the Singapore International Foundation to help set up a joint replacement centre at the Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh. This is a Specialist project targeting benefits to subsection of the nation. Now I am glad to see some results! I have stopped my Phase I disaster relief mission trips like the one I did in Pakistan. I have two lovely boys now, and I cannot forgive myself if I deliberately put myself in harm’s way.

EH: Where would we normally find you when you’re not working? Any hobbies/activities you like to do with your family/by yourself?

Dr Chin: For the little time left for myself, I spend it all on my eldest son’s football training and matches. As a result, I have taken up football again, too! During evenings, I enjoy just being with my 17-month-old son, playing, pretending and swimming. That really leaves very little time left for my supportive and lovely wife.

Article by Dr Chin Pak Lin originally posted on