When I joined the AWDS at the behest of Dr Myra Elliot, it was with the first founding committee in 1998 with Dr Lucy Ooi at the helm and Dr Kanwaljit Soin fanning the passion. Historically, our primary mission during those early years was to abolish the quota for female students entering the medical faculty at NUS. For 24 years, a quota was put on the number of women entering medical school, limiting it to a third or less of the total number accepted as the Government felt that the expensive training of women doctors would go to waste when they quit to stay at home, or to work part-time.
After years of hard campaigning and lobbying by the women doctors and politicians, the historical quota was finally lifted in 2002. Juggling my time between private dental practice and raising a young family then (the kids are now teenagers), I still managed to commit my time to the AWDS, organising events and starting a women doctors beading group with the ladies that I had forged strong bonds with at the AWDS.
I can still remember how it started, my twins were still infants and I was bored. I saw a necklace at a store window and said to myself, “I could do that.” And so my first necklace was born. That first piece, a simple lariat with tear-drop ends, was greeted favourably when I wore it to work. Before long, I was deep into the beading habit and started to amass my collection of beads whenever I travelled. The collection remains colossal even till today. I took under my wings, a group of like-minded women, and started teaching beading classes for AWDS, the Association of Women Doctors Singapore. Each class was structured, with a new technique taught and a fresh project to accomplish.
Oftentimes, the highlight of the class was not so much the beading but the speciality lunches served at my home: Ampang Yong Tow Foo, Mee Siam, Hae Mee, Assam Laksa and homemade Lor Bak Gou were some of dishes enjoyed over our years of Saturday afternoon sessions. The beading habit remained an obsession for years to come. Each time I travelled, I would cart home bags and bags of unusual beads to share amongst my fellow beading friends.
The fights were fierce at times, as to who would get the favoured pieces but they also served as affirmation of the strong bonds of friendships, cemented by our common passion for beading. I write this for the beading ladies: Dr Shirley Yap, Dr Chan Lin-li, Dr Tham Siew Nee, Dr Choong Chew Thye, Dr Tan Ah Moy, Dr Lucy Ooi and many other founding stalwarts of the AWDS. They are the wind that fed the flames.