As a rehabilitation
medicine specialist in
an acute care hospital,
Dr Geoffrey Samuel
tends to see patients who are
seriously ill. They may have been
involved in bad traffic accidents
or suffered a debilitating stroke.
Dr Samuel leads a
multidisciplinary team to look
into these patients’ longer-term
recovery after their immediate
medical needs have been taken
care of and their conditions have
stabilised. Getting them back on
their feet, or at least as much
as possible to where they were
before, gives Dr Samuel the most
satisfaction in his job.
“I want to help as many
patients as I can to return to a
good quality of life. I want to
help them improve in terms of
their function,” said Dr Samuel,
Senior Consultant, Department
of Rehabilitation Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
“Rehabilitation is an active
process. We set realistic goals
for the patient and coordinate
with different medical disciplines
to help the patient achieve them.
We prescribe exercises, and
the optimum nutrition and
medicine to improve strength
One of his more memorable
cases involves a 54-year-old patient
with a serious lung inflammation.
The patient required a ventilator,
and was treated in the intensive
care unit (ICU) for half a year. After
the patient recovered, uncertainties
remained over his post-discharge
recovery — would he be able to
live independently at home?
Surprisingly, some months
after, the patient was able to go
about his everyday life on his own,
such as grocery shopping. His
progress exceeded expectations;
the patient had been expected to need at least the use of a portable
oxygen concentrator when he
While the medical team —
occupational therapists, speech
therapists, physiotherapists, music
therapists and psychologists —
worked on different areas of
the patient’s recovery, Dr Samuel
believes it was the patient’s
determination that made
Dr Samuel oversees the
patients’ rehabilitation and
sets realistic rehabilitation goals
and troubleshoots issues, such
as mood, pain or nutrition. If
necessary, referrals to other
disciplines are made. As the
patients improve, the team
plans for their discharge to a
rehabilitation facility or back
home for further treatment as
Although it can be a challenge
to coordinate between multiple
team members, it is precisely
this holistic approach to treating
patients that inspired Dr Samuel
in rehabilitation medicine.
“Patients often have multiple
interacting medical problems.
They may primarily have lung
issues but may also have problems
with the heart or kidney functions,
so all these need to be looked
after,” he said.
In 2015, Dr Samuel went
to Taiwan to specialise in
under the Ministry of Health’s
Health Manpower Development
Plan programme. “In Taiwan,
rehabilitation medicine is very well
developed, with large departments
to look after different aspects of
recovery, particularly in stroke
rehabilitation,” he said.
The country’s well-run
rehabilitation system, he said,
allows patient recovery to
continue outside the hospital.
Patients with musculoskeletal
problems, for instance, can be
seen in outpatient clinics.
Treating critically ill patients
in the ICU has made Dr Samuel
understand the frailty of life.
“People who may seem well can
suddenly become unwell. It makes
me appreciate relationships
more, beyond pursuing personal
achievements,” he said.
Outside his hectic work life,
Dr Samuel enjoys gardening at
home to de-stress. The father
of two grows plants, such as
mint and aloe vera, and listens
to Mandopop by Jay Chou and
Taiwanese band Mayday to relax.
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