Doctors come from rich background


The current chairman of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) contributed an article to today’s Straits Times.

The gist of Dr Wong Chiang Yin’s article is that heartlanders, i.e. those who stay in HDB flats, are under-represented in the medical profession.

While 80% of all Singaporeans stay in HDB apartments, only about 45% to 50% of doctors live in the heartlands.  And this has been the situation for the past 12 years, as observed by Dr Wong.

The SMA chairman cited the following possible reasons for the disparity: long period of study, high tuition fees (currently at $17,520/yr), lack of study loans (or the awareness thereof), richer students perform better in school, and poorer students performing badly in interviews.

I’d like to add one more point: the rich can also send their kids to overseas medical schools when they fail to get a place in NUS, thus boosting the rich-over-poor ratio. Just look at the “celebrity” doctors (i.e. those who always appear in the media) – many of them were educated overseas.


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  4. what are the exact figures? From where you get the above stated figures from? And also, the 80% that you stated are made up of doctors, who have humble beginnings, who made it bigtime or doctors with rich background to begin with?

  5. Robert, I’m not sure if I get your question. The 80% figure refers to the proportion of Singaporeans living in HDB flats. If my memory serves me well, I think the official figure is in the range of 80% to 85%.

  6. It’s patently untrue that medicine students overseas “did not” make it into the local medical school. Students of elite sec schools generally do not study locally. Children of upper middle class and the rich also do not study locally. It’s a cultural thing. Don’t believe, go to any of the elite sec schools and interview them. All the kids of the rich go overseas, they don’t even bother to apply for university here. In fact a high number go overseas directly from O levels.

    Second, the local medical school is not well regarded internationally. If the students enrolled in there had the money to attend top UK medical schools, they will not be there.

    It’s no secret that a sizable number of president’s scholars who studied medicine got their parents to pay for their medical studies in Cambridge. The trend was observed even before PSC changed its policy in 2007.

    Previously, President’s Scholars can go to any top university they want on the government’s bill except those who do medicine, have to go to NUS. This is because of the prohibitive cost of medical studies. During that time, at least 3 president’s scholars went to Cambridge anyway, making their parents for it while accepting the scholarship in name. One of them was Anne Tan, who later became the head of Association of Women’s Doctors and championed the lifting of entry ceiling for female medicine applicants here, even though she herself chose not to go local. Another is Audry Lee.

  7. Yup only losers and poor people like me study in Singapore. Let us all work hard so that our children can study overseas in future!

  8. it doesn’t really matter, once all these doctors graduate, they will all eventually live in HDB again coz they have such lousy salaries. we’re talking like 4-5k / mth especially those public sector ones

  9. Oh! Doctors who go overseas do not need to serve any ‘bond’ in public hospitals. Only those who went local. You didn’t know?

    But it’s true lah. Those who went local, only draw $4k at the age of 28. That is how old they are after completing their medical studies, one year of housemanship then two years of NS.

    By 28 years old, some classes of scholars in the government will be drawing $150k PA already.

  10. Also, do note that people rich enough to pay for themselves to medicine in UK like in Imperial College London, Cambridge, which is anything from $500k to $700k, are mostly from very rich families. They don’t have to live in public housing.

  11. 4-5k is a lot of money. My father earned 1.5 k all his life.
    Seriously drs are overpaid and they should be paid less and do more.

    Medicine reject!

  12. As long as people are willing to pay that much they will continue to earn that much.

    You can say this profession and that profession are overpaid, but as long as there are people willing to pay them that much, they will still be paid that much.

    If somebody (in your example, your father) earned 1.5k all his life, it’s most probably because his skills are valued at 1.5k in the market. He is neither underpaid or overpaid. If he is truly, really underpaid, he should be able to find another job that pays higher. I’ve seen many cases like this. Their next salary usually differs by a large amount from their previous one.

    Conversely, if after searching high and low he can’t find better pay anywhere else, that probably means he is paid the market rate, a.k.a.: NOT underpaid.

  13. Goodie, is the converse true? 🙂
    If people claim I am _overpaid_, how do I find out if it’s truly the case? How do I show I’m worth what I’m paid? If after searching high and low I can’t find a lower pay elsewhere, does it mean I’m paid the market rate? 🙂

  14. Don’t be silly. I hope you’re kidding. From the smilies you put, you seem to be kidding, so that’s good.

    If people claim you overpaid, you just concentrate on doing your job the best you can and show that you’re worth it. Why the heck would you search for lower pay elsewhere?

    On the other hand, if you get sacked for incompetence, and can’t get another job with similar pay after searching high and low, then YES, in your previous job, you WERE overpaid.

  15. I totally disagree with using market rates as the benchmark as the entire industry can be overpaid like investment banking and civil servants are always underpaid.

    Of course, using market rate is tolerated as there is no better way. Doctors should be paid less in Singapore so those greedy drs can then migrate overseas where they will be paid more in developed countries.

    This will help in lowering healthcosts in Singapore as those drs who stay do not want or need high pay and thus will be able to serve the poor. Those who want high pay should migrate to other countries and not cause wage inflation in Singapore.

    This way healthcare in Singapore will be more affordable but not the best in the region. Thus be careful what u wish for cause u may get it!

  16. Sure, you can disagree until you’re blue in the face. As long as there’s a market in which people are willing to pay them that much, they will be paid that much. As simple as that. Whether you (and I) think it is too much or too little is irrelevant.

  17. so peasantdr, you are suggesting doctors, instead of earning 4-5k , should earn 2-3k like nurses?
    doesn’t quite make sense…. perhaps then we’ll see more foreign talent doctors in the polyclinics; isn’t that wonderful!

  18. peasantdr, not all civil servants are “underpaid”. I know one who makes $120K a year at 25 years old. He makes more money than anyone else possibly in any other jobs, more than any lawyer, doctor or banker I know. FYI, male lawyers only make a measly $3.5K at 27 and male doctors only $4K at 28. Before that both lawyer and doctors are drawing either nothing or $1k as housemen and pupils.

  19. No lah.
    Houseman get a lot of money.
    My friend get 2.4k starting pay as a houseman and still has call allowance. Also they do nothing but chat and rude to patients somemore. Ask them to give update, they all push here and there.
    28 yrs old earn $4k is a lot of money considering that dr should be like high priest of society. Some drs in a and e even eat hospital food and save on food and some even get to stay in hospital for free during call!

    Civil servants should be paid at least double what drs get to paid for doing work that will help prevent our daughters from being maids or drs in 3rd world countries.

  20. peasant, $4K at 28 is considered average pay for non-professionals or non high fliers in a GLC. In other words it’s crap pay. I think they should be paid more than that, cos with that kind of pay even I make more $ than them and I’m an unremarkable worker bee.

  21. what rubbish is that!
    more than 4k a person cant buy hdb flat liao
    so how can be average pay unless hdb not for average citizens
    Pls use yr brain before rebuking the poor peasant. They cant take the brutal truth.

  22. peasant said: “Houseman get a lot of money.
    My friend get 2.4k starting pay as a houseman and still has call allowance.”

    Are u an idiot? 2.4k is ALOT of money? civil servants should “earn alot more”? civil servants like the ones at GIC who bought us banks?

  23. hey why u so rude?
    Civil servants are the key to Singapore’s success not doctors. Even NUH CEO also thinks drs are losers and not fit to run hospitals and ministry of health!
    2.4K is a lot considering that houseman are trainees and they can migrate if they are not happy.
    This is Singapore, a land for PAP and civil servants.
    U cant take the brutal truth!

  24. lesser mortals on

    I think u all miss the pt liao.
    Doctors from rich background do not need high pay unless civil servants who are mostly born poor and thus need high income to survive in sg.
    Hopefully all the rich people will become drs so that we can pay peanuts and they will still work hard since they dont need the money.
    The poor are the problem groups, pay them peanuts and they revolt like the peasants.
    Can NUS and Duke choose only rich medical students, this will help reduce medical costs in Singapore so we lesser mortals can fall sick and not be sent to hospitals overseas.

  25. Haha all of you are just jealous but who cares? At the end of the day, all of you still make peanuts compared to BOTH doctors and civil servants.

    Doesn’t matter that drs from rich backgrounds need high pay or not and doesn’t matter whether civil servants were from poor family or not, at the end of the day both doctors and civil servants make ten times more $ than you. So dig that!

  26. civil servant on

    Civil servants work hard for Singapore and we should get paid much more. I used to work in private sectors getting paid much more for doing much less.
    If not for us, peasants wont have jobs and u all be living in kampung. We ought to be paid well!

  27. civil servant on

    Very sad to have pay cut but we must share in the misery of fellow Singaporeans.
    Let us work together hand in hand to ensure the success of Singapore!

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  29. Not a doctor la on

    I disagree with the fact that doctors come frm rich background. Though I dont have the exact figures (which nobody else has anyway), I do have frens who become doctors thrgh their own hardwork. They come frm HDB n still stay in HDB. Of course, their bond v long. Working hrs oso long. And they have to pay insurance. And they also have to pay back larger amt of study loan since they study so many yr n its exp.

    What I do agree with is that kids frm rich backgrounds get more exposure on the choices they can make. Their parents are mre educated and can show them whats available. Or guide them on further education. On the other hand, kids frm a normal family backgrd may just get a basic degree and wld need to save up for their Masters.

  30. While 80% of all Singaporeans stay in HDB apartments, only about 45% to 50% of doctors live in the heartlands

    It is a known fact that the average medical student is richer than the average university student
    Those who choose to study overseas are even richer cause their schools fees are much higher.

    Thus to conclude, most doctors are from richer background compared to other professions.

  31. it’s an untold fact that doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, traders and even architects generally come from richer family background. when i say “generally”, i mean a statistically significant proportion of them are from rich families to begin with. it’s a fact, so just accept it. the only thing we can hope for is for a fairer education system that allows a good chance for poorer kids to catch up. only then will we hope to see a shrinking income gap, rather than a widening one.

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