Every September for the past 11 years, Dr. Julian Ong Kian Peng trades scrubs and scalpel for uniform and radio-set at the Singapore Grand Prix
STORY BY Dr. Julian Ong, Consultant Colorectal and General Surgeon (Julian Ong Endoscopy & Surgery) / Deputy Chief Medical Officer (Singapore Grand Prix)
Being a General and Colorectal Surgeon means I’m mired in a fast paced world where work piles on work, pun fully intended.
Decisions are made in a snap, and situations are fluid and can change in the blink of an eye.
From one moment to the next, things can morph from fine, dandy and under control to sh*t literally hitting the fan, pun again intended.
Truth be told, I have become so accustomed to the intensity of my work-day that even a few hours of peace is a luxury, and in a perverse sort of way, an unnerving situation to be in.
For the past eleven years, I have silently counted-down to each September, where my scrubs, scalpel and scopes are traded for a uniform, radio-set and pieces of plastic attached to lanyards.
The sterile and air-conditioned environs of the operating theatre are traded for the sun, dust and smell of burnt rubber.
The high definition videos transmitted to screens via high grade optical fibres from the ends of my endoscopes are swapped for 50 bright monitor screens that track dozens of single driver vehicles as they are piloted anti-clockwise around a street circuit illuminated by the blaze of lights that rival the sun.
My charges? The gentleman drivers of the support races and million-dollar men of Formula 1.
What should be a break from work, is four hectic days of snap decisions and coping with situations that come literally to an end when cars meet barriers.
I volunteer as a medical officer at the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix and have done so for the last eleven races.
At the race, I take on the mantle of ‘Deputy Chief Medical Officer’ and help manage 80 volunteers in the medical team. I have enjoyed every minute spent at the circuit, which includes the hours spent with the team in training before the race.
Because of my limited talent as a ‘pilot’, this is the closest I can get to being involved in motorsports. I would love to get behind the wheel of one of these race-cars and drive the b*ll*cks off them, but fear I might find myself too intimately acquainted with the Tecpro barriers instead.
For now, this will suffice, and I hope to inebriate myself with the sounds, sights and smells at the home of the Formula 1 night race for many more years to come.
For as long as I’ve been able to drive, I’ve yearned to be in the cockpit of a high performance vehicle.
In my mind’s eye, I imagine myself tracing the racing line around a circuit, while deftly executing perfectly synchronised heel-and-toe downshifts and intuitively dialling-in a bit of opposite lock as the rear of my race-car steps-out ever so slightly as I explore the outer thresholds of the traction circle.
Unfortunately, in reality, I would have lost that rear-end and sat out the race as a spectator with colours from my car’s racing livery adorning the wall...
In reality, my day-job is no less rewarding, with my senses enveloped by the cacophony of beeping monitors, clanging of metal instruments and the hiss of suction drains clearing the field of vision.
I trace precise lines with the strengthened edges of my scalpel blade and cut no corners – it’s not about being fast, but being thorough.
I would not trade my job for anything, but I do look forward to every September, where I work behind-the-scenes to ensure that the drivers have immediate access to an able team willing and ready to care for them, should the unthinkable ever happen.
PHOTOS Eunice Lim / Dr. Adrian Ng