30 July 2012
Looking back on 25 years in the business of health
RMIT University alumnus Dr Stella Wee never does things by halves.
Awarded a national gold medal for best Masters student after graduating from RMIT with an MBA (International Management) delivered through the University's partnership with the Singapore of Institute of Management, she was pleased but also a little disappointed.
"I was actually aiming for the regional prize but I just got the one for Singapore," Dr Wee said. The other countries in the MBA (International Management) Program were Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
"When I do something I do it with all-out passion and commitment - I am very focused and I go all out to get it. That's how determined a person I am."
Dr Wee has poured her passion and focus into the healthcare industry in Singapore for almost 25 years.
As the CEO of Singapore's Dover Park Hospice, she heads a team of 80 staff and more than 360 volunteers, who care for up to 50 terminally ill patients.
Before taking up her role at the hospice this year, Dr Wee provided managerial support to senior medical professionals and healthcare specialists as well as Divisional Chairmen and Heads of Departments at Singapore General Hospital, Kandang Kerbau Women's and Children's Hospital and West Point Hospital.
She even worked overseas for a huge business conglomerate owned by the Abu Dhabi Government with interests in healthcare services. She has, over the past two decades, assisted with organising local and overseas medical conferences as well as having organised eight voluntary medical missions to China, Indonesia, the Middle East, Myanmar and Uzbekistan.
While she began her business career in banking, she soon felt drawn to something different.
"The reason I went into the healthcare industry is because it was about caring for people, providing a service and contributing my ideas, my thoughts, my experiences and suggestions on how to improve life for those who are ill, and especially when they're not in a position to care for themselves - people who sincerely need help," Dr Wee said.
"I felt that healthcare was a very worthwhile cause."
At the time Dr Wee was making her career shift 25 years ago, RMIT was establishing its relationship with SIM, the first Australian university to partner with a Singapore institution to deliver its programs locally.
The partnership has since produced more than 23,000 graduates; Dr Wee joined that number when she graduated with her MBA in International Management in 2000.
A devoted life-long learner, who draws ideas from a wide range of sources including books, journals and movies, she found her studies at RMIT offered a fresh perspective.
"While being continuously open to inspiration is important, the structured approach to learning that is provided through academic studies is also critical," she said.
"With RMIT, I specifically wanted to gain the international perspective through my studies because I'm very much aware that I'm in just a small little part of the world here in Singapore.
"But the real, big world is out there, so I really wanted to gain that global view and international business perspectives."
The skills she developed in strategy, operations management, finance, HR and leadership through the MBA remain vital to her daily work.
Dr Wee's face lights up when she talks about the camaraderie and team work involved in her studies at RMIT, with the friendships she made continuing to play an important part in her life today.
"All those contacts, I've maintained all these years," she said.
"They've been able to help me in so many ways, from referring me suitable candidates and recommendations for vacant positions I have available in my organisation to attending an event I'm organising, where I've contacted them because I know they will support with their attendance.
"You make lifelong friends with these people and all I do is just pick up the phone, and they immediately recognise my voice, even before I say my name! That close connection, they're like family."
Her most treasured memory though, is the one and a half weeks she spent with her fellow students in Melbourne in 1998 and also the second residential program in Malacca in 1999, attending lectures and classes.
"That was very interesting and a very good experience because you get to immerse yourself in the local, Australian, Melburnian culture as well as the historical and unique cultural experience in Malacca," she said.
"You taste the food, you meet people there, you go to all local areas of interest. And then you have all your friends together, a whole bunch of us.
"It was so fantastic and it's a very healthy way to learn because it encourages you and pushes you. I thoroughly enjoyed it."
Reflecting on her 25 years in the healthcare industry, and the skills developed through her career and her RMIT studies, Dr Wee is enthusiastic about passing on what she has learned both to her family - as a proud aunt of a niece and seven nephews - as well as her colleagues and friends.
"These skills, my knowledge, it's all encompassing," she said.
"I'm not one of those who keep things to themselves.
"To me, sharing is joy. You can see that glow of happiness in people when they appreciate something you have shared, when they have that 'ah ha' moment - it's wonderful."
RMIT alumnus Dr Stella Wee, CEO of the Dover Park Hospice in Singapore.
The Dover Park Hospice is Singapore's first purpose-built hospice.