For Ervin Sethi, graduating student from NUS Medicine, his journey to becoming a doctor started when he was just eight years old.
He had followed his father on his first medical mission trip to a remote mountain village north of Chiangmai, Thailand. They set up a medical clinic there and made multiple home visits to bring help to those unable to travel. One patient stood out for Ervin then — a polio-stricken young boy, about the same age as he was, incapable of walking and had to use his hands to drag his body around, causing the skin of his legs to tear and bleed every day.
“I remember asking my dad if we had any medication for him and was disappointed to hear that we could not treat him,” recalled Ervin. He then decided to donate his last pair of clean socks to the boy so that he could cover and protect his feet. It was a small gesture but Ervin saw that it meant the world to the patient.
Since then, Ervin has dedicated his time to going on multiple medical mission trips yearly to various remote communities in the region to extend assistance to those for whom access to medical help is most crucial. However, that first trip remains the one that made the most impact on him despite the many other journeys he has made.
“Being exposed at such a young age and going back so frequently made me develop a heart to help people and subsequently inspired me to be a doctor. I believe that becoming a doctor would equip me with the necessary skills to help such underprivileged communities the best that I can,” shared Ervin.
Ervin is currently doing his housemanship training at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in Singapore General Hospital, and will graduate from NUS on 8 July with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. Ervin is also fluent in the Chinese language having studied it in school, and he sees it as an advantage in bridging the distance between him and elderly patients when he is at work. “Whenever I greet the aunties, uncles, they’re always visibly surprised. When patients know that I can converse with them in their own language, I feel they will be more willing to open up and share with me about their condition,” he said.
What lies ahead is not only a budding career as a doctor, but also a sterling sporting career. An accomplished and multitalented athlete, Ervin not only plays handball for Team Singapore, he also represented Singapore in water polo from 2012 to 2013, and swam competitively with the NUS varsity swimming team.
The go-getter sees no reason to put his sporting aspirations on hold despite the demands of a medical career. “I am trying to adjust to this new working life and balance my time so that I can continue playing sports at the highest level and pursue my medical career concurrently,” he quipped.