So what really is the story behind OncoCare and squash? It must’ve been a question some might have been asking. It’s not the most natural combination given that the Singapore Junior Open title sponsor is a private oncology centre.
SGSquash caught up with Dr. Tay Miah Hiang, one of our nation’s finest oncologists and co-founder of OncoCare. What unravelled was a rather meaningful story of how our sport played a part in moulding him as a person and eventually the success of OncoCare.
“I believe that squash gave me the competitive advantage to get into medical school,” Dr. Tay said convincingly.
“When we were applying to medical school, in retrospect, I think there were generally two pre-selected groups of candidates for interview – the ones likely to be selected as a result of ECA (extra curriculum activities) and academic results, and another that might make it, if they convinced the selection panel.
Fortunately for me, I am convinced that fell into the first group and did not have much trouble getting in. And I really believe that it was squash that was one of the tipping factors. They even asked me if I would be able to juggle squash training and attending medical school!”
Having started to play the game in secondary one, Dr. Tay played on to his undergrad years, picking up the coveted National Schools Champion with the St. Patrick’s School team. Individually, he achieved a third placing in the B division of the SSRA League.
He reckons that through the years he was in training, it has taught him many valuable lessons in life, which he still applies today. It has taught him how to face difficulties and deal with obstacles. Just like in squash, when one loses, one gets up, trains harder and aims to get the better of that someone the next time. He likened this to when he first started OncoCare, when not everything went to plan and there were some setbacks. But that did not stop him and his perseverance eventually bore him much success.
Dr. Tay also feels that in dealing with a difficult condition like cancer, it is also rather similar to being in a tough match of squash.
“Squash is a game of tenacity. You got to keep running and pace yourself (to last the entire match). The ball will keep coming back and you just have to take it in your stride.
When I deal with cancer patients, I tell them to keep fighting. We only have one life, so we need to treasure it and not give up easily.”
Dr. Tay is a firm believer that sports in general helps one be a better person. The discipline, dedication and working hard are values which one can relate to many things in life.
Whilst squash is not fully a team sport like in football, Dr. Tay revealed that playing in the school level exposed him to a lot of team-work and encouraging one another. It has overall nurtured him to a better leader that he is today, which he can relate to in the success of OncoCare.
“We have ten doctors in our centres, with another two coming. I manage the team pretty similar to a squash team. We work together well and we encourage each other. When you have a good team that works together, the patients and their families are happy. With happy patients, come more referrals.
I never thought we will grow to be this big when I started the practice (11 years ago). We are now the second largest private oncology centre in the country, and I am just thankful for the opportunities.”
This is the second year OncoCare is coming as title sponsor of the Singapore Junior Open. It was during last year’s finals that Dr. Tay noticed that there were no local winners. In a bid to further encourage the local kids, Dr. Tay has thrown in an additional $1,000 prize money to every Singaporean junior who wins in any age category.
“It is not a lot of money (the extra $1,000). These kids have to fight it out in there and win many matches to earn it. But if this can encourage them to work harder, I am more than willing to do my part,” said Dr. Tay, who is hopeful that one, or more, would walk away with the bonus.
Towards the end of our session, Dr. Tay pretty much summed up why he is doing this right now.
“Professionally, financially and personally, I’m in a comfortable stage of my life. Things are falling into place and I feel it is the right time for me to give back to society. Squash has given me opportunities; it is now time for me to play my part.
I want to inspire successful people. I believe there are others who got their break because of squash. Maybe they do not realise this yet. But I hope many more will come forward.”
On 29 November 2018, OncoCare came in 6th in the prestigious Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards. E50 is jointly organised by The Business Times and KPMG, and is awarded to the 50 most enterprising privately-owned local companies in Singapore.