26 November 2012

Meet Professor Sally Wai-Chi Chan!

SINGAPORE—I am spending a month in Singapore, the “melting pot” of Southeast Asia. Singapore is a melting pot for two reasons. First, the heat and humidity are excruciating. Even the mildest exercise outdoors induces profuse perspiration and laboured breathing. The only respite this time of year is the daily monsoon downpour, but even that is lukewarm.

Singapore is also a melting pot in another sense; it is one of the most multicultural places in the world. And it is entirely peaceful. Draconian sentencing and harsh punishments by the local judiciary tend to enforce good manners and tolerance. Nevertheless, appreciation of other cultures seems genuine. The place is fabulously rich with 17 percent of the population being millionaires (Singapore dollars).

This visit—my third to Singapore—is to the National University of Singapore, currently ranked No. 25 in the world in QS World University Rankings (No. 2 in Asia). Specifically, I am at the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, located in the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, recently ranked the top medical school in Asia by QS. Founded in 2006, the centre is led by Professor Sally Chan.

Sally Wai-Chi Chan
I have known Sally for more than 20 years, ever since we both arrived in Edinburgh. I was a new lecturer and Sally, along with her husband Bing-Shu Cheng, was a new MSc in nursing student. A decade later, we met again when Sally was working in the Nethersole School of Nursing at Chinese University of Hong Kong, where I had been appointed external examiner for their master’s in nursing programme. Thus began my frequent travels to the Far East and Southeast Asia and a rekindled professional relationship with Sally.

Sally is energetic, ambitious and productive. She has always been visible and vocal, both as a student and as an academic. Her leadership in mental health nursing research and the mark she made on delivery of services in Hong Kong is remarkable, and her output of publications is impressive. Sally was clearly destined for leadership, and she is now in a key position to lead the development of this relatively new centre and to contribute to academic nursing in Singapore.

I am lucky to benefit from being one of a succession of international visiting scholars and professors to the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies. Sally has made it her trademark to work with the best and learn from the best. In turn, those of us lucky enough to come here frequently learn a great deal from the diligence, dedication and sheer hard work of the local academic and nursing population. Working days are long here, but the rewards are concomitant.

Sally is an outward-looking, horizon-scanning person, and this was recently exemplified by her visit to my own University of Hull. At present, Singapore does not allow nurse prescribing, but an ageing demography, together with nursing and medical-personnel shortages, will necessitate some new approaches to delivery of care and some shifting of professional boundaries. Sally wants to be at the forefront of this change, and the purpose of her visit to the United Kingdom was to learn about nurse prescribing programmes—Hull was a pioneer in this respect—and to see what links could be formed to help prepare her for advancing this initiative in Singapore.

Leadership is hard to define but obvious when you see it. It is demonstrated in many ways and under different circumstances. The circumstances in Singapore could not be more ready for leadership such as that displayed by Sally Chan and, as a result of her far-sighted thinking in pursuing an academic career in Australia and the United Kingdom, (largely outside her native Hong Kong), she could not have been more ready for her current leadership role.

I often ponder my own leadership skills and wonder if the opportunity awaits me to demonstrate them; it has eluded me to date! Next week finds me in Bangkok and then Hong Kong before I head home to the UK for Christmas. In the meantime, at leisure, I think about the vagaries of professional and academic life, and where better to do so than the world-famous Long Bar of Raffles Hotel in Singapore.


For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

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