The Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) held its first ever TIMA* Dental Conference at Orchard Hotel on 26 August 2018. The conference, which was themed “Tempering Hardware with Heartware”, saw the participation of 478 attendees, including dentists, dental assistants and students.
*TIMA: Tzu Chi International Medical Association
The programme of the conference included important and intriguing dentistry topics, such as “Removable Prosthodontics”, “Dental Implant in Deficient Bone”, the application of CAD/CAM technology in dentistry, etc. Elements of Tzu Chi’s humanistic healthcare were also incorporated into the one-day programme.
Among the invited speakers was Associate Professor Ng Yee Kong from the Anatomy Department of the National University of Singapore’s School of Medicine. He shared about his heart-moving experience and efforts in promoting the “Silent Mentor” (body donor) programme in Singapore. Another topic that focused on humanistic medicine was presented by Dr. Eugene Tang, the head of TIMA Singapore’s dental team. The veteran dentist and Tzu Chi volunteer spoke on the topic, “Dental Expertise in Local and Overseas Relief Missions”.
Dr. Chien Sou-Hsin, the superintendent of Taichung Tzu Chi Hospital travelled all the way from Taiwan to Singapore to share his personal experience participating in medical relief during Tzu Chi’s disaster relief operations. He also explained how adopting a vegetarian diet positively impacts health and Mother Earth. His talk highlighted the goal of TIMA—to “heal people, heal diseases and heal hearts”, with the hope of inspiring more dental professionals to join the ranks of TIMA volunteers. Besides providing free healthcare services to needy patients, TIMA members also practises humanistic care while interacting with their patients.
Dr. Chien said, “This dental conference is actually quite rare globally. We hardly see any professional conference that instills rich humanistic values and also encourages interactions and discussions. This will spur healthcare professionals to recall their initial aspirations, (which is important), because as time goes by, such aspirations will slowly be forgotten.”
Dr. Chien believed that the initial aspirations of healthcare professionals could be awakened through such a professional conference that was infused with Tzu Chi’s humanistic values and culture. He also hoped that TIMA volunteers could improve professionally and grow spiritually by volunteering in Tzu Chi’s medical relief work.
“Dentistry plays a pivotal role in TIMA; not only in Singapore, but overseas as well. We are serving local needy residents who greatly need healthcare,” he said.
He hoped that the audience could gain a better understanding of the core values and principles of Tzu Chi’s medical relief work after attending the conference, and would be inspired to show greater love and care while treating their patients.
The efforts and hopes of a veteran dental volunteer
Dr. Eugene Tang has volunteered with TIMA Singapore for more than 14 years as a dentist. He got connected with Tzu Chi through the late Dr. Ling Sin Yew, a pioneering member of TIMA Singapore. Dr. Eugene was a key figure in the establishment of the dental unit at Tzu Chi Free Clinic in Redhill, Tzu Chi’s local dental outreaches, and countless Tzu Chi free clinics held overseas.
He guided some new joiners of the TIMA dental team to organise this conference, which included important features of Tzu Chi’s humanistic healthcare. Tzu Chi’s certified volunteers provided indispensable help and support by taking up the role of table leaders and other duties at the event.
“Master Cheng Yen has been encouraging Singapore volunteers to recruit ‘a million kind souls’ to help the needy in the society. So we hope to recruit more people to join our family of Great Love through this conference,” said Dr. Eugene Tang, with a hopeful smile.
American dentist joined the ranks of TIMA
Dr. Marina Spector, a dentist who hails from USA, found the conference very revolutionary. She initially thought that she would be learning mostly about news and updates on dental medicine at the event, and was very surprised that many of the talks were not about treating physical conditions, but about “the environment and the people who live in it”. She said that mutual respect between doctor and patient was crucial as it allowed the latter to feel more comfortable while receiving treatment, and that this was something achievable.
Marina (pictured below) commented that the humanistic medical culture and practices that she had learned at the conference were something entirely new to her. The inspiring and moving talk on “silent mentor” reminded her of the importance of gratitude, while during the talks on Tzu Chi’s international disaster relief and dental outreaches, she witnessed respect in each act of giving.
She was deeply touched by what she had heard and seen during the conference. What awed her the most was the advocacy of vegetarianism by medical professionals. She found this very revolutionary and unique, especially when it came from medical personnel and not members of an environmental agency.
Marina said that she had decided to sign up as a TIMA member within the first hour of the conference, and even planned to make time to participate in Tzu Chi’s medical aid mission in the Philippines this October.
Humanistic medicine is an ongoing mission
Dr. Yip Wing Kong, who has practised dentistry for 54 years, used to serve in a government dental department and work as a lecturer in dentistry. He was very impressed with TIMA’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance and charity for those in need. He said, "Some dentists in Singapore also do dental outreach, but most of them are doing it on an irregular basis as individuals. It is very inspiring to see Tzu Chi conducting outreaches in such an organised manner."
27-year-old Malaysian dentist Dr. Ng Shay Lee learned about the conference from a friend. She had even brought along two dental assistants to attend the conference and travelled all the way from Johor to Singapore early in the morning. She had learned that Tzu Chi was always present at the scene of a disaster in the immediate aftermath to render aid, so she specially came to attend this conference to find out more about Tzu Chi’s work. From the sharing by Dr. Eugene Tang, she learned about the selfless dedication of Tzu Chi volunteers, and saluted them in her heart.
Robert Chua, a dentist from the Philippines, is currently doing administrative work for a dental group. He signed up for this conference after listening to the sharing by his colleagues who had participated in Tzu Chi’s overseas free clinics. After attending the conference, he was inspired and spurred to share what he had learned with more people, in the hope of helping to recruit more volunteers for TIMA.
The CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, Low Swee Seh, revealed that the response to this conference was unexpectedly overwhelming. As the number of registered applicants far exceeded the initial target of 300, Tzu Chi had to change the venue to a larger function room in Orchard Hotel, which could accommodate at least 500 people. He was confident that many of the conference participants would be inspired by Tzu Chi’s unique humanistic medical culture and join the ranks of Great Love serving as TIMA volunteers.
“Tzu Chi Singapore is marking its 25th Anniversary this year. We hope that this conference will serve as a good start to the series of events held to celebrate the special occasion. With our volunteers’ united efforts and with active recruitment of new volunteers, TIMA Singapore will grow stronger and play an important role in Tzu Chi’s Mission of Medicine to benefit more patients,” he said.