Healthcare Warrior

Illustrations by Idea Ink

Serena Wee, CEO of ICON Cancer Centre (ASEAN and Hong Kong), has been in the healthcare industry her whole life. Both her parents worked in hospitals, so growing up watching her parents provide care and service has spurred her to do the same, and she’s taking it to the next level. 

There is no question that Serena Wee, CEO of ICON Cancer Centre (ASEAN and Hong Kong), has been in healthcare her whole life. Growing up, she would ‘hang around’ the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, because her mom used to work there– in fact, her mom was among the pioneers who started the hospital back in the mid-to-late 70’s. 

“I used to hang around after school to meet her, and then we’ll head home together. I was always in that environment. My dad was in medtech, so one can say I’m a healthcare ‘lifer’,” she says.

Wee has been in the healthcare industry since the beginning of her career. Like her mother, she began at Mount Elizabeth as a management engineer, before moving on to add reputable healthcare providers like Parkway Group Healthcare in her resume, in addition to senior roles in healthcare investment, consultancy, and development for the past 20 years.

She is also the co-founder of Can-Care Holdings Pte Ltd, which is a provider of comprehensive and personalised post-cancer care products and services, targeted to meet the physical, social and psychological needs of people with cancer, cancer survivors and their families– with a special focus on women with cancer.

In her role as CEO of ICON in Asean and Hong Kong, she is focused on bringing the best of cancer care to the patient and their families, as close to their homes as possible. ICON, which is a Brisbane-based company, has done so successfully in Australia, and now Wee’s goal is to bring that same level of care to ICON’s other markets across the globe. 

In fact, she is now about to embark on a project which she hopes will transform the face of cancer care, and especially for young women. 

While treatment of cancer is a big focus for ICON, cancer care is more than that, says Wee. It goes far beyond treating or eliminating the cancer, and actually encompasses a holistic view of the impact the disease has on the patient and his or her family.

“We take a holistic view of the person, rather than the patient,” she adds. “Definitely, treatment is a big focus for us, but as we speak we’re developing the supportive care aspect of cancer care. It is about being a part of the patient’s journey, and the continuum of care.”

Their focus is not just the physical aspect, such as rehab or therapy, but also the psycho-social aspects of cancer. “Hence, we are looking at support groups that encourage active participation, and support in ways many people don’t talk about.” 

One of Wee’s most exciting endeavours now is a support programme for women with cancer, with a focus on onco-fertility. 

“It’s a programme we’re very passionate about. See, when a young woman gets cancer, her psycho-social needs are different. Very often, we focus on the treatment. But the first thought of any young woman with cancer is, “Do I need surgery? Chemotherapy? Radiation? And if I do, what are my chances of having a child in the future, what will it do to my fertility?”.

These are the areas which Wee, who has formed a group of five female doctors within ICON specifically to support this initiative, intends to tackle.

Right now, the programme is being created, with feedback from doctors, fertility experts and patients, and it is slated to launch this month, says Wee. They’ve talked to fertility experts, oncology experts, and are working closely with experts in the relevant fields.

Wee really wants this programme to be truly established here in Singapore, but more than that, it’s about giving back. “We at ICON truly believe in giving back to the communities we operate in. One of the few things as a cancer care company that we could do, wherever we are in the world, if we structure this programme really well, we can take this to the rest of the markets.”

Her immediate next step is to, quite simply, do the best in bringing this programme to fore. “I am in no rush to say, we have to launch it by this time. We’re ensuring everything is done well, according to process, we want it to be done professionally and not trial and error,” she says. “We’re conducting focus groups to understand the women themselves, to find out what they truly need. We are also focusing on the sustainability of this programme, so it’s not a flash-in-the-pan, so that it will eventually take a life of its own no matter where we launch it.” 

“The thing that really drives me is the idea of being innovative. Even in a profession as old as medical care, we can learn so much. I tend to always look at things outside the box– it’s cliched but let’s try to innovate what we do everyday for the patients, to put ourselves in our patients’ shoes and be empathetic and understanding to help them and support them,” she says. “Whatever we do, if we put our patient at the heart of it, we’ll never go wrong.”

Illustrations by Idea Ink

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