Born in Malaysia and raised in Hong Kong, with Singaporean Chinese, Shanghainese and Canadian roots, paediatric surgeon Dr Jennifer Sihoe is the epitome of a truly international upbringing. “I went to an ESF school and then to Nottingham University in England for university after my A-levels in Hong Kong,” Jennifer explains, before adding, “I came back as this is home for me.”
These days, Jennifer shares her life in Jardine’s Lookout with her three children, Nathan, aged 14, Alayna, 11, and Alysha, who is nine, along with the family’s much-loved dogs, Tsuki, a Shiba, and Fluffy, an aptly-named Pomeranian. As a hard-working surgeon, Jennifer’s daily routine necessitates an early start. “I wake up before 6am to help prepare and pack the children’s bags, then get everyone ready, before driving to school at 7am. I stay until school starts at 7.45am, then I head in to work.”
And while her work location can vary between hospital wards, surgical theatres, or the HK Paediatric Surgery and Paediatric Urology Centre clinic in Central, Jennifer’s day remains consistently busy, working around her professional commitments to ensure that family life runs smoothly. “I normally work through lunch, or schedule my lunch break for 2.30pm so that I can do the after school pick-up. I usually go back to work after dropping off the children at home.”
The end of the day sees the family sitting down for dinner and a catch-up. “Depending on the time, I like to have individual chat times with the children just before bed; however, it’s inevitable that there are times when I need to be away for work,” she says. This mutual understanding helps Jennifer’s children to appreciate the importance of responsibility. “I think it’s important to be a role model for them, to show them that everyone should have a sense of dedication and responsibility at work, as they also should at school.”
Jennifer says one of the attractions of a career in medicine was being able to do something meaningful. “I felt that it was a career in which I could learn a skill that I can use to help others,” she says. “I felt that my life would be more meaningful if I could help others, and give back to the community.” Jennifer’s specialisation in paediatric surgery came after six months spent as an intern in the surgical ward. “My patients would come into hospital in a lot of pain and suffering, but nearly all of them went home well again – this was when I knew I really wanted to be a surgeon.”
I ask whether Jennifer wants her children to follow in her footsteps one day, and she muses, “I want them to be able to enjoy the rest of their lives doing something that will make them happy … and, of course, it’s a bonus if you can make a living while doing what you like to do!”
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This article first appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.