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The Full Story

My Story

A Child in Singapore

 

I was the firstborn to my loving parents, TS and SK, and grew up in a small apartment in Singapore. 

 

As a young child, we got by my mom’s salary of a few hundred dollars a month working as an office clerk, while my dad went to architecture school. We were thrifty and we had enough to pay for mortgage and every meal.  

 

School started at age 4 for me, with nursery and then kindergarten where we learned languages and how to be away from parents and play with each other. 

 

Then school quickly became serious when I started primary (elementary) school. I remember the morning where my mom and I had to go to school, sit in a crowd, and wait for my name to be called, to know if I would get into that school. I also remember that my mom had tears of relief when my name was called out. Her son was going to get an education in a good school and life was going to be better for him. 

 

School Days

 

Being in school was awkward for a tall skinny boy with glasses. 

 

While I enjoyed playing catch, running some track, and swimming, my mom’s focus was for me to do exceptionally well academically in school. 

 

What this meant was much of after school time and weekends were spent doing homework from school and more homework that my mom had scheduled. 

 

It also meant that if I scored less than generally 95 out of 100 for any subjects, it was going to be a physically and emotionally painful time at home when I showed her my test results. 

 

Every Singaporean child has to undergo a national exam at Primary 6 (aka 6th grade). It is called the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam). It is an exam every Singaporean parent obsesses about because it was going to determine which secondary school (aka middle school) their child would attend for the next 4 years. 

 

To a Singaporean parent, attending the top secondary school could make all the difference on whether their son or daughter became a successful doctor, lawyer or politician.

 

My mom thought the same, and she had every intention for me to attend the top secondary school and the pressure was on. 

 

I think I spend every single day of that 6th grade studying, weekday and weekend. 

 

By the grace of the Gods that my mom prayed to at the Chinese temples, I not only did well during PSLE, I also came in 3rd in my school. That virtually guaranteed me a position in the best secondary school in Singapore at that time, Raffles Institution.

 

Teenage Years

 

So there I was, 13 years old, attending the best all-boys school in the country, that also produced the leaders of the political party that governed Singapore. I felt proud that I made it, like I was part of an elite group of students. Even the school song had the words “sons of Singapore” in a verse. 

 

Unfortunately, with all that studying in primary school, I really wasn’t great at any particular sport, and was not selected to represent the school in sports. 

 

Instead, I joined the military band, which was probably one of my greatest mistakes in school. The student leaders of the band thought of themselves as military leaders, and I hated band practice. It was a mix of physical training, military drills and practicing the instrument. I was tall and was assigned the bass clarinet, which I didn’t even enjoy playing.  

 

Till this date, I still wondered why I stayed in the band for all those years, except that I didn’t know better what else to do, and also to belong to a bigger group. And I liked music. 

 

I continued to do well in school, and at one point was studying 10 subjects at one time – English, Chinese, Higher Chinese, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Advanced Mathematics, History and Literature. 

 

By this time, my mom had two more younger daughters, and she stopped paying as much attention to what I did in school. 

 

I did well enough to graduate with As, and entered to Raffles Junior College at 16 years old, which was considered the best pre-college school one could get into. 

 

It was also a co-ed school, which means there were girls in class. 

 

I stayed in the music band, except now I played the clarinet and it was starting to be fun because I was getting good at it. 

 

That’s also where I had my first girlfriend at 17 years old, who I later married at 24 years old. What did I know? 

 

During Junior College, I had to select 4 subjects to study for 2 years. These subjects were going to determine what I study in college after I graduate. 

 

It was most prestigious to study advanced mathematics and triple sciences (physics, chemistry, biology), while subjects like economics, history and literature sounded like soft subjects. 

 

It was also most prestigious to get into medical school because it was the hardest to get in. I already liked biology, and I would love to learn everything about the human body. Diseases sounded fascinating. Being able to treat sick people and make them better sounded like it wouldn’t be too hard. I got this. 

 

Moreover, the students in the triple science class were considered the smartest. 

 

It seemed like a no-brainer at that time. My ego back then would not have allowed me to do anything else. I signed up for triple sciences without hesitation, and I was on my way to medical school. 

 

As expected (by my parents probably), I graduated junior college with top scores, and applied for medical school. 

 

Military Service

 

There was however one hurdle that I had to cross before medical school. Every Singapore male citizen had to serve in the military service, usually army, for two and a half years before going to college. 

 

I still remember showing up at the jetty on the eastern end of Singapore island, in my civilian attire as an 18-year-old boy, feeling uncertain about what to expect. The guys dress in camo attire ushered us onto a ferry and shipped us off to Pulau Tekong (Tekong Island) for basic military training. 

 

It was going to be three months before I finish boot camp, and would return to mainland Singapore as a private in the army. 

 

I was already quite familiar with military drills and commands since I spent 4 years in the military band in secondary school. I also expected the physical training, weapons training and having to obey the commands of anyone higher in rank, which was pretty much everyone else since I was an army recruit. 

 

However, this was the first time I hung out with guys who came from different social backgrounds. 

 

To understand what this means, you have to understand that I was treated as a young adult by my schools for 6 years prior to joining the military just because I did well in my academics. It did not mean that I understood what life was really like. It was like I lived in a bubble of being a responsible smart science kid for 6 years, and now the bubble broke and I was thrown into real life. 

 

Real life lived by different rules. I got along well with my platoon mates, and had a close group of army buddies. That part was great. What I did not like was having to listen to people who I thought didn’t know any better than me, but was yelling commands at me simply because they were ranked higher. 

 

It was probably a mix of ego, bad attitude and logic that led me to the decision that in order to stop having to obey the commands of people who didn’t know better, I had to rise up in rank quickly.

 

With that simple realization, I had a single focus now in basic military training. I had to become an army officer. Instead of just getting by till the end of boot camp, I had to get into Officer Cadet School (OCS). I meant I had to run faster, train harder, be better and show leadership skills in order to stand a chance of getting in. 

 

On the last day of boot camp, we had a passing out parade where families came to see their sons turned into soldiers. My name was called “Foo Chong Wee, Officer Cadet School”. It brought me back to the moment when my name was called at the primary school ballot and my mom cried. 

 

Except this time, my mom wasn’t present to cry. I cried a bit inside. It was my first real accomplishment in life outside of academics based on my efforts, and I now get to lead instead of follow. 

 

Officer Cadet School

 

I was put on a bus to the western end of Singapore Island. I was going to undergo 10 months of intense military and leadership training to become a second lieutenant. I was going to lead my own platoon of men to defend our country if the need came up. 

 

That was the plan. The first ten weeks of officer training involved even more intense physical training, more weapons training and meeting even higher military standards. 

 

I learned a few important lessons:

  1. Be extremely organized and that will make me extremely efficient

  2. Never let any external situations shake my internal composure

  3. Always take care of my team, leave no person behind

  4. Always keep a clear mind to think, even when I am too tired to think

 

After 10 weeks of training, I was called into my platoon commander’s office. He told me I got into medical school, and my military service was going to be disrupted so I could complete medical school before coming back to serve as a medical officer cadet in the army. 

 

He also said this “You better become a damn good doctor. You’re dismissed.” It’s strange how certain words stay in your memory.

 

Medical School

 

Back then, there was only one medical school in Singapore, and that was the National University of Singapore. 

 

Transitioning out of the military back to civilian life was like having freedom returned to you. I could sleep, eat and do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. 

 

Medical school was competitive. Everyone was smart, and there were only 10 spots on the Dean’s List.

 

During the first year, I was having a rebound for lack of freedom in the military. That meant I did only what I wanted. I was juggling having fun, not doing anything, playing games, skipping lectures and studying Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry. 

 

At the end of the first year, I scored an A, B and C respectively for each subject. I don’t remember that last time I got a C or less except for a Chemistry test 2 years before when I started dating. Red flag!

 

Second year, I studied harder, but was still rebelling from having to live a controlled military life. I scored an A for Microbiology. However, I was disappointed because I had put in the effort but did not get onto the Dean’s List.

 

I asked a friend who got on the Dean’s List for 2 years in a row for advice. He said, “If you are going to study anyway, why not just give your best?” 

 

That was a valuable lesson. The 10 spots on the Dean’s List represented the top 5% of the medical class. The difference between number 10 and 11 usually represents less than 2% in actual exam scores. 

 

A 2% difference is what separates the best from the rest. 

 

For the next three years of medical school, I tackled Pharmacology, Pathology, Internal Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and even thing in between. I spent long hours in the hospital and more hours in the library and at home studying. 

 

I also made Dean’s List for the next 3 years. It was the 2% principle that got me there – I just had to do 2% better than the rest. 

 

A Taste of the United States

 

During the 3rd year of medical school, I met my first mentor, Dr Paul Tambyah, who would later, change the course of my medical career. Dr Tambyah himself had trained at the University of Chicago and later University of Wisconsin and was an Infectious Disease physician, who prided himself on his training experience. He would tell these amazing wonderful stories of his time in the US. It sounded like the best medical doctors trained in the US, the best medical research happened in the US, and it also tasted like freedom from a controlled life in Singapore. 

 

To find out, I traveled to Yale University as a 4th year medical student and spent a month at the Yale-New Haven hospital on a pediatric elective rotation. 

 

It was my first taste of living in the US for 8 weeks, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. 

 

My pediatric team consisted of my supervising physician from Lebanon, 2 fellows from the Philippines and Peru, and there was me, a medical student from Singapore. I loved the international background of the team. For the first time, I felt a part of a larger medical community, an international one. 

 

Besides the rotation at an amazing university, I had a taste of freedom. The freedom to do whatever I want, mostly whenever I want, but most importantly it was something I wanted to do. 

 

I wanted to be there. I wasn’t forced. I wanted it. Doing what I wanted to do was freedom. 

 

I told myself what Arnold Schwarzenneger is known for saying in the movie Terminator, “I’ll be back!”

 

Becoming a Medical Doctor

 

Graduating from medical school was like all the years of schooling since I was 6-years-old coming to a point. After 17 years of school, I am a Medical Doctor. I did it! 

 

Or so I thought. 

 

Internship in the Singapore hospital was probably the hardest year of my life at that time. I spent 4 months each in General Medicine, General Surgery and Pediatrics. These were 12 to 14-hour work days with 36 hour shifts every 3 to 4 days, 7 days a week. I was lucky to have a day off, less a whole weekend off a month. 

 

As an intern, I had to do patient rounds twice a day, order the tests, draw the blood (we had no phlebotomists then), call the specialists and follow up on all the results. I was the one every person called, and I usually had 30 to 48 patients on my list at any one time. 

 

I was constantly busy regardless of how organized and efficient I am. 

 

By the end of internship, I was burned out and done with being a doctor. Sure, I liked seeing patients get better and leave the hospital. At the same time, the job satisfaction was at a record low. I had no life. No joy.

 

But I was stuck, because when I entered medical school, I had to sign a 5-year bond with the Singapore government, which started after my internship. It was a compulsory contract. If I broke the bond, I had to repay the Singapore government $300,000, and my salary was less than $3,000 a month. 

 

Getting Married

 

By this time, I have been dating my girlfriend from Junior College for 7 years. 

 

While I finished medical school, she had graduated from law school and became an attorney at one the largest law firms in Singapore. 

 

We had grown up together and I had not dated anyone else. Our relationship was safe. We may disagree and argue at times, but it was safe.

 

Now that we’ve started our careers, I had to decide what to do about our relationship. We were starting to argue more because of our individual job demands. Our relationship was either going to end, or we were going to get married. 

 

I decided the responsible thing to do was to get married. I planned a proposal and she said Yes. 

 

We planned a small wedding at Disney World in Florida, and a honeymoon in the Caribbean after that. It was going to be fun. 

 

We got married with Mickey and Minnie, had a wedding reception in Singapore for family and friends, and bought our first apartment together.  

 

Now what? 

 

Moving to the United States

 

After internship, I needed a break so I had spent 6 months working in Anesthesia under supervision, before returning to the military to complete 2 years of service as a Medical Officer. 

 

Military service as a Medical Officer was easy. After graduating from Medical Officer Cadet Course, I was transferred to the Navy and given the rank of Captain, which meant there were only 4 ranks above me above me whose orders I had to follow, and most people in the military treated the ‘Doc’ nicely because you never know when you needed help at the medical center.

 

While on one hand, my salary decreased by half to less than $2,000 a month, on the other hand, I had much more time on my hands to solve my problem.

 

This was my problem: I was a medical doctor, married, poor, stuck and unhappy. I decided that the problem was the lack of freedom working in the medical field in Singapore, and I needed a better way to make a better living, or live a happier life. 

 

I recalled my time spent as a medical student at Yale-New Haven hospital, like someone recalling having the best ice-cream in the world as a 6-year-old child. 

 

I decided that my solution was to travel to the United States to become a doctor there.  If I should fail to do that, I would stop practicing medicine in Singapore once my 5-year bond was over and get into financial analysis and trade stocks. I was serious.

 

Armed with that decision, I researched how international medical graduates could get into a US residency program. 

 

I learned I had to take the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), score well, and then apply through what’s called the Match, and see which program I would get into. 

 

The USMLE was in 3 steps. I started studying again with spare time that I had for step 1, and scored in the 99th percentile. I was on my way.

 

After 2 years of military service, I returned to the civilian hospital to work close to my mentor, Dr Paul Tambyah, in Internal Medicine. 

 

Dr Tambyah introduced me to a retired endocrinologist, Dr SY Tan who was on the faculty at the University of Hawaii. Dr Tan happened to be in Singapore visiting his mother, and invited me to meet him at his hotel lobby. 

 

I dressed up in my best shirt and pants, put a CV together, and met with Dr SY Tan. 

 

He was dressed in a polo T-shirt and slacks, and you could tell he lived in Hawaii for a long time. We spoke briefly, and I do not recall anything significant from that conversation. I wanted the experience of interviewing for a US residency position to prepare for future interviews, and nothing more. 

 

A week later, Dr Tan called me from Hawaii, and said if I would finish my USMLE and get my US medical license, he has an internship position in Hawaii in Internal Medicine for me to start in 6 months. 

 

I agreed almost immediately. 

 

I was actually feeling fairly miserable earning $3,000 a month as an Internal Medicine doctor in Singapore. Why don’t I earn $3,000 a month as an intern in Hawaii? At least I’ll be in Hawaii. 

 

Hawaii - Rainbow State

 

I’ll never forget the day I got on the plane from Singapore to Tokyo, and onwards to Honolulu. A part of me knew that I would not return to Singapore to practice medicine. 

 

This was a fresh chapter. I not only got to live in the United States for 3 years for the Internal Medicine residency program at the University of Hawaii, I also got to reset and become whoever I wanted to be. My first instinct was I wanted to be different from everything I was before. 

 

Having practiced medicine for 4 years before becoming an intern in Honolulu again meant it was easy. Moreover, I only had 6 to 12 patients on my schedule at any one time, which was way lesser than 48 patients I was used to having. It was a breeze. I remembered on my first day in Hawaii, I had only 1 patient to round on while waiting for more to be admitted. 

 

While I was having a great time having a fresh start with a new lifestyle and new friends, my wife who traveled with me to Hawaii, had left her job in Singapore and could not practice law. It was a large sacrifice on her part. 

 

While I spent 12 to 30-hour days in the hospital surrounded by coworkers, friends and patients, my wife was alone at home most of the time.

 

To her credit, she passed the difficult New York bar exam, and applied to probably 100 law firms in New York, but was unsuccessful because this happened during the financial meltdown of 2008, and also we didn’t know anyone practicing law in the United States. 

 

After a year of being home, she applied for an attorney position in Beijing, China, with a prestigious international law firm, and was accepted. She moved to Beijing, and we started a long-distance relationship. I wondered if she would come back. 

 

Choosing Dermatology

 

When I signed up for an Internal Medicine residency in Hawaii, I had thought I would someday become a cardiologist, to literally save people’s lives. 

 

I spent a month with a cardiologist as an intern, and he showed me the lifestyle I would experience if I were to become a cardiologist someday. This was a life of 12 to 36-hour shifts in the hospital saving lives, and little time left for my family or to pursue personal interests. 

 

I needed a different medical specialty. 

 

Then I spent a month with a dermatologist, and I was hooked.

 

I could literally see the skin problems I needed to treat in dermatology. To appreciate this fact, you have to understand what it is like in Internal Medicine. For example, a patient with a headache might come to see me, and I would depend heavily on the description of this headache to determine what its cause might be and what further tests I might have to order because I could not SEE the headache. 

 

In addition, if I ordered a CT scan on this same patient with a headache, and the scan showed a brain tumor, there was not something I can do to fix the problem. I would have to refer the patient to a neurosurgeon. That was highly unsatisfying.

 

In dermatology, however, I could literally SEE the problem, treat the problem myself with procedures or prescriptions, and both the patient and I could SEE the problem resolve or improve. This was objective, measurable and highly satisfying. 

 

The challenge was I was already enrolled in an Internal Medicine Residency program. This meant that to enroll in a Dermatology Residency Program, I had to switch from one Residency program to another, which is not supported for international medical graduates on a foreign exchange (J-1) visa. In addition, most residency training positions were funded by Medicare, and they did not fund someone twice to go through residency training twice. 

 

This meant that my chance for getting into dermatology training was close to 2%, meaning that there was probably around 2% of dermatology residency programs who would select me as their trainee. In addition, dermatology was already a competitive field where there were usually between 300 to 500 applicants for a single position. 

 

My Internal Medicine program director told me directly that she did not think I would get into dermatology, and I would be better off applying to another specialty (fellowship) under the Internal Medicine umbrella like cardiology, rheumatology or infectious disease. 

 

The stakes were high because if I applied to dermatology and was not accepted, I would be returning to Singapore as an Internal Medicine graduate, which was literally where I left off. I would consider that a failure. 

 

I smiled inside, breathed deeply and applied to every single dermatology residency program in the country, spending $2000 which I barely had just for applications alone. 

 

I was selected for an interview by two programs, and matched at the University of Utah Dermatology residency program, and the rest was history. 

 

How I was ever selected over 300 applicants at the University of Utah was something I would probably never know, but I would be eternally gratefully to Dr John Joseph Zone and his department for giving me the opportunity to become a dermatologist.

 

Another important lesson learned: I gave everything I had, burned the boats and there was no turning back. Through pure desire, action and grace, I got into dermatology. 

 

Utah - Beehive State

 

 Just as I was leaving Hawaii, my wife left China and returned. I was partially surprised. We decided to start a family, and she became pregnant with our first child. 

 

We moved to Salt Lake City, expecting a child, and I expected again to breeze through dermatology.

 

Except this time, I had no prior training or practice experience in dermatology. I was learning from ground zero like everyone else. Dermatology was not a breeze. 

 

My first son was born 4 months into my dermatology training, and I learned what love truly was. The moment he was born, and I saw his smiling face, pure unadulterated love opened my heart and tears poured out continuously. True love was wanting to give all of myself to something greater than I. 

 

Now I had to juggle being a new father and working and training in dermatology while supporting our family on $3,000 a month. 

 

Dermatology training was a lot of fun. Everything was so visual. It was like solving puzzles, and the clues could be found on the skin or under the microscope. I just had to find them and piece everything together to reach a diagnosis. 

 

I enjoyed performing the procedures, from biopsies to skin cancer surgery, to chemical peels and playing with lasers. Everything was cool and exciting. I enjoyed what I did. 

 

2 years later, my daughter was born, and I learned what gratitude was. I almost lost her shortly after birth. She was bleeding so much from her gut the day we brought her home from the hospital. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I depended on the team at the children’s hospital to save her. I would have given anything for her to live. After short ICU stay, she was healthy and got to experience a whole life ahead of her. For that, I had never felt more grateful. 

 

Oregon - Beaver State

Shortly after, I was graduating from dermatology residency, and had to decide what to do next. Do we move back to Singapore or stay in the United States?

 

I really wanted to stay in the United States. However, it was not an easy task because I was on a foreign exchange (J-1) visa, and I could only stay if I worked in a designated underserved area. 

 

By a series of serendipitous events, I received a call from Dr Sandra Wu in Eugene, Oregon. She attended a talk by my chairman Dr John Zone, and after having a conversation with him, had reached out to me with an opportunity to work in Eugene Oregon where it was a designated underserved area for dermatology. 

 

I visited Eugene on my own, stayed at Valley River Inn, and fell in love with the river walk. I could see my little family growing up in this place where we would buy a house, close to the river, take longs walks and ride bikes together. It was perfect in my mind. American dream!

 

I became a board-certified dermatologist in the summer of 2013, and moved my family to Eugene, ready to start a fresh chapter in our lives where I hoped would be smooth sailing.

 

Divorce 

 

Now looking back, it was hard to pinpoint exactly what happened that led to our divorce. 

 

My wife and I had been together as a couple since we were 17 years. She had stuck with me through medical school, residency programs in Hawaii and Utah, and gave birth to two beautiful children whom I love with all my heart. 

 

A year after moving to Eugene, we had bought a house with a nice yard where our two kids could play freely. 

 

I was excited to finally be able to afford more comfortable vacations and meals. 

 

However, during all these years of being together, we had neglected our relationship and more importantly, we had neglected our mental health. 

 

While we were doing better materially, I was more unhappy, and so was she. 

 

I was in love with my children, but I wasn’t in love with my wife. I felt controlled, unhappy and I wanted to be free. 

 

After a series of unpleasant events, I decided after an unhappy 36th birthday that my wife was the source of my unhappiness, and that divorce was the best choice. 

 

If you are matured enough to see the major red flag in this thought process, you are absolutely right. But I didn’t know better back then. I was as mature as a teenager in relationships.

 

The truth was I was unhappy with myself internally from issues that I had not resolved since I was a child or teenager, but I kept thinking if I solved the next external problems (for example, where I lived or how much money I made or who I was married to), the internal issues would resolve themselves. 

 

In addition, I got into a relationship with my wife at age 17 years for security, and not because of deep love and connection that I felt for her. 

 

On an October evening, after my son’s 5th birthday, I asked my wife for a divorce. 

 

She agreed. We separated, and after 2 months she moved back to Singapore with both our children. 

 

5 months later, we were formally divorced after being married for 11 years. What had I done?

 

Darkest Days

 

This started the darkest period of my life. 

 

I immediately got into a new relationship. Does anyone see the red flag here? 

 

On hindsight, I wanted that new relationship for security, comfort, love, connection and to make up for everything that I had lost. This was a relationship that was impossible to succeed. I was unhealthy. I needed too much from this new relationship, and it could not replace my lost time and connection with my children. 

 

To make myself feel better, I would travel between Oregon and Singapore every 1-2 months, even if it was just to spend 3 nights with my children. 

 

I had so much guilt towards my children. I could not feel any joy, even when I was with them. 

 

For 2 years, that’s what I would do. Sent my ex-wife financial support monthly. Traveled to Singapore every 1-2 months to see my kids.  Tried to get as much comfort out of my new relationship as possible. It was miserable. 

 

That new relationship ended after 2 years on a New Year’s Eve. It was the worst New Year of my life. I was alone, sad, angry, guilty and contemplated whether life was worth living. 

 

At rock bottom that week, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, crying with the Bible open and asking for help. I didn’t know what else to do. 

 

Sure, I was a successful dermatologist, but I was divorced, separated from my children, and not knowing who I was. 

 

Finding Myself 

 

Nobody told me that you grew that fastest when you are alone because you are forced to be with yourself and your thoughts with no distractions. 

 

Up till now, I had never really been alone. I was either with my family or in a relationship. This was the first time I had to be alone.

 

I still went to work on weekdays, but I had 3 days every weekend to be by myself. 

 

I started reading. There must be a better way out of this. 

 

One of the first books that turned me around was Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. The gist of it was I would attract into my life what I think about. That scared me. 

 

Most of my thoughts up to that point were uncontrolled. I was unaware of most of my thoughts. If I attracted into my life what I thought about, then I had better be careful what I actually thought about. 

 

She also said “Follow your bliss.” 

 

I always loved to travel, and it had been years since I had traveled on my own. 

 

Before having children, I had traveled to several countries in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, around western Europe, and northern America, and I enjoyed every trip I made. 

 

3 months after my rock bottom, I booked a trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to see the historic Angkor Wat, which I had always wanted to visit. It turned out to be one of the best trips in my life. 

 

I was reading Rhonda Byrne’s second book Power on the flight to Cambodia, which essentially says Love is the most powerful force in the world. 

 

I filled my mind and heart with lots of loving energy, and said Yes to everything in Cambodia. Because of it, I met a local driver, who brought me to all the temples around Siem Reap, swam with locals at remote waterfall, and attended his friend’s wedding. At the wedding, I met the owners of the guesthouse I was staying at.  I also went quad riding through rice fields and had deep life conversations with a new friend I met from Netherlands. It was the most fun I had in years!

 

I spent the rest of the year taking as many trips as I could, while still working as a dermatologist and visiting my kids in Singapore every 1-2 months. I traveled to New Orleans, Mexico City, Bali (and survived an earthquake there), Austin, Vietnam, Thailand and New York City. I also took up scuba diving and attended a travel influencer conference (TravelCon) where I met more friends who were loved traveling. Life was amazing, and I needed no one, and I was absolutely comfortable with myself. 

 

I felt that I had found a part of myself again. I was a world traveler and a dermatologist. 

 

However, there were still many parts of myself that I had to figure out, forgive and accept. 

 

I still felt tremendously ashamed that I was divorced, and guilty that I was not spending every day with my beautiful children. 

 

I knew I did not want to return to my previous marriage. At the same time, when I tried dating, I felt like a fake. I did not like to talk about my past or my kids. 

 

When I met new friends, I did not like it to talk about my background either. I was still hiding from my past. 

 

While I was no longer bleeding from the wound, I had put a band-aid over it while it continued to fester under. 

 

Personal Development

 

It was during this time that I finally received my green card. 

 

The green card, aka permanent residence in the United States, had been my goal since I first left Singapore 12 years before. After going through 6 years of medical training, another 5 years for serving in Eugene Oregon, and a year of waiting, I finally received my green card. 

 

You see, before having a green card, I was only allowed to have a single income through my employer who sponsored my work visa. 

 

This all changed overnight when my green card arrived. It meant that I could finally start my own business. 

 

By this time, I had traveled even more, to Philippines, Hawaii and Belize, diving and adventuring. 

 

It was time to start a business, but I did not know what I was going to do. 

 

On a train ride to Macchu Picchu in Peru, 2 months after receiving my green card, I decided I was going to start a travel company called Crazy Traveling Asian (aka me), and set up small group adventure tours called CTA Journeys. I was going to leverage my passion for travel into a successful business. 

 

However, I had no idea how to start a travel company or if I had it in me to make one successful. 

 

I needed help, and I remembered a random passenger on a flight from Singapore to the US who told me about how he and his business team had attended a Tony Robbins event which made a big difference for their virtual reality company. 

 

It turned out that Tony Robbins had an Unleash Your Power Within (UPW) event in Singapore in 2 months, on the same week I was going to visit my kids. 

 

The ticket price was $1000. If I bought it, it would be the most money I had spent on myself for any kind of personal development outside of medicine. Was the event worth it? I didn’t know, but it was time to invest in myself because I was worth it. 

 

Fast forward to UPW, I walked over hot coals that first night and my entire mental state was changed. If I could control my mental state, I was capable of doing anything. 

 

During the 4-day event, I said “Yes!” a lot, learned a ton about my own thought patterns, from limiting beliefs to my psychological needs. I was finally beginning to understand myself. Even though I had no strategy to make my business successful, I was certain of starting one. 

 

By the end of the 4-day event, I spent another $15,000 on personal development, buying all of Tony Robbins’ events. I was a lion in the wild. Life was never going to be the same again. 

 

2 months later, I attended Tony’s Date With Destiny (DWD) event, and finally went through the process of healing, re-wiring my mind, and acceptance. 

 

During that event, I took 100% responsibility for my life. 

 

I was 100% responsible for my thoughts, emotions and actions.

 

I called my family, my ex-wife and my children, and asked for their forgiveness. 

 

At the same time, I forgave myself, and accepted myself for who I was for the first time, possibly in my life. 

 

I also loved myself unconditionally for the first time. 

 

Entrepreneurship 

 

Shortly after UPW, I serendipitously met 3 people, who became my first business team. Our goal was to start a travel company called WENT, which stood for ‘WEllness aNd Travel’. The plan was to lead small groups of adventurous adults to exotic destinations while helping them with physical, mental and relationship well-being. 

 

I was excited. Our website was live. I had a part time travel agent. I had a small group of friends who were starting to design small group tours locally to India and Bali.

 

Then Covid started, and international travel was shut down. Initially I thought this would blow over in 3 months, but it didn’t. 

 

After seeing no way around it, I shut my travel operations down after a year of working on it. My team disbanded and moved on. It was the worst feeling. My first business failed, but I was not going to quit. 

 

What’s next? 

 

Well, Covid travel restrictions imposed by Singapore required a mandatory 2-week quarantine for any travelers entering Singapore. 

 

This meant that in order to see my kids for a week, I had to take 3 weeks of work, and spend 2 of those weeks in quarantine. 

 

That forced me to accumulate all my time off for the year, and take 2 months off to be with my children for their birthdays and spend the first 2 weeks in quarantine by myself.  

 

During the first week of my quarantine, I re-designed my travel website because I had nothing better to do, and called it Destinations Collector. 

 

During my second week, I designed my personal website Dr Chong Foo, because I thought, maybe I would teach Dermatology online. 

 

By the end of quarantine, I registered a new business entity called Acne Concierge to provide acne treatments online, and reorganized my travel company to become a digital marketing company. 

 

I thought if I could treat acne patients online, I could help patients with acne from across the country, even while I was in Singapore spending time with my kids. 

 

Over the next 5 months, I built the operational systems for Acne Concierge, including a website, an electronic medical record system, process and I was within 2 weeks of launch, and faced a roadblock.

 

I had no extra time to treat acne patients online because I was already having a busy in-person dermatology practice. I also did not have a person I could count on to manage the business. Lastly, I was not confident that the business would provide enough revenue for me to hire a part-time or full-time dermatology specialist to see patients. 

 

Self-doubt began to set in. 

 

Falling in Love

 

Around that time, I unexpectedly met someone. 

 

During our first meeting, she had told me her whole life story including that she was working as a nurse in the hospital, and was looking to work in a plastic surgery practice because she enjoyed aesthetic procedures. 

 

She sounded like she had a great personality. I needed a manager for Acne Concierge, and I thought maybe she would be it. I gave her my name card, and asked her to call me back if she was interested. 

 

She texted me the following morning, and we arranged to meet for lunch 2 weeks later to discuss our endeavor further. 

 

During that lunch, she took off her face mask, and I saw her for the first time. She was gorgeous! 

 

We spent an hour and a half at lunch, and spent only 10 minutes at the end talking about Acne Concierge. She was not only beautiful, but funny and had a lovely laugh. She also kept playing with her hair. 

 

That night, I texted her and asked her out for dinner, and she said “Yes!”. 

 

We had our first date over oysters a week later. I fell in love right away. Her laugh was contagious and everything about her was breathtaking.

 

When I tried to ask her out again, she said she wasn’t ready to date yet. Bummer.

 

It was going to be another 6 weeks before we met again. 

 

During these 6 weeks, I would check in on her occasionally and sent her food once, with no expectation of getting anything back. It was a form of unconditional love. 

 

While she said she wasn’t ready to date yet, I couldn’t help but feel that she was interested. 

 

6 weeks later, she agreed to go on a hike where she poured her soul out on a walk while I listened. A week later, we started dating. Within 2 months, we bought a house together. 

 

3 months after dating, we got engaged. A month later, we moved in together. 

 

At the same time, I started my 3rd business, a real estate company, starting with vacation rentals and long-term rental in Oregon. 

 

On New Year Day 2022, 4 years after my rock bottom, we learned that my fiancée was pregnant. 

 

We got married later that summer and my wife delivered us a beautiful son. 

 

Present – Why I started this blog

 

I feel blessed every single day, even when it is a rough or difficult day.

 

What a journey it has been to go from being unconscious in my daily life to being aware of my thoughts, emotions and behavior every day.

 

What a journey it has been to travel from rock bottom, alone, sad, angry, divorced and separated from my kids, to getting married to a woman I love, with a new son, still spending time my 2 beautiful kids in Singapore, being a dermatologist, and seeing my businesses gain traction. 

 

These days, I want to give back and make an impact in other people’s lives. 

 

I want use what I know about medicine and dermatology to help educate even more people with the skin diseases and other health-related needs. 

 

I want to share what I learned about mindset, relationships, business and finances so that others can also experience greater joy and fulfillment in life. 

 

Hence, I started this blog to share my knowledge and experiences in dermatology, health and personal development. 

 

Thank you for reading this far into my story. If my story resonates with you, and you think I am able to help you, please join our community as we continue to grow together and master our lives. 

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