She makes digital healthcare easy for those who need it most in Singapore
Serene Cai co-founded Speedoc when digital healthcare wasn’t a big thing. Four years later, their doctor house calls and telemedicine services are still going strong – and she wants to do more.
In partnership with UOB.
Most of us have been in situations where there seem to be no good solutions, or where the ones on the table are simply not good enough. Few people take it upon themselves to do something about it and bring about meaningful change. Serene Cai is one such individual.
Back in 2017, she co-founded Speedoc – a digital healthcare provider that offers house calls by doctors and telemedicine – spurred on by her family’s difficulties in caring for her late grandmother who suffered from severe dementia.
“Even with our resources, it was very hard to take care of all her medical needs. It was almost a 24-7 endeavour, and any fall would lead to other complications,” said the 29-year-old. “In between her six-monthly hospital appointments, there would be many small episodes that required medical attention and we didn’t know where to turn to.
“There were no telemedicine services in Singapore back then. I figured there had to be a simpler way to seek medical help – that was the seed that led to Speedoc.”
DUTY AND CARE
Not only did this experience bolster her resolve to enter the healthcare line, it imbued her with a strong desire to do her part for society and help others going through tough times.
Last April, when COVID-19 hit, she and her Speedoc colleagues were among the health workers who answered the Ministry of Health’s call to provide medical attention to foreign workers in the dormitories.
At the time, there was limited knowledge about the virus and no vaccines. Neither did anyone know how contagious the virus was.
“I was definitely concerned about being infected but I also felt a strong sense of duty,” she said.
Healthcare is one of the most rewarding industries I can think of, where every decision and action helps to impact someone’s life for the better.
“When we first stepped into the dormitories, there were very long lines of workers queued up to see the doctors, many with fever and flu symptoms. It struck me that if we don’t do our job and help get things under control, Singapore could go under in a matter of months.”
As sobering as that experience was, Cai also found much fulfilment in knowing her work has very real and positive effects.
“Healthcare is one of the most rewarding industries I can think of, where every decision and action helps to impact someone’s life for the better. I’ve brought this mindset to my personal life as well, by looking for opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives through social work,” she said.
SUPPORTING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
In particular, she gravitates towards causes aimed at helping the most vulnerable members of society. Often, these are women and children.
“I feel very strongly for those who need protection, help or answers. It probably stems from recognising that there are many around me who may not have the advantages and privileges in life that I have had,” she said.
She started a social media page on Instagram called the Well Woman Initiative last year, with the aim of providing information about seldom-addressed conditions that afflict women or which they are most at risk of, such as endometriosis and caregiver burnout.
The information is presented in bite-size nuggets that's easily remembered and can be screen shot and shared. She had seen the shareable WhatsApp posters used to educate foreign workers about COVID-19 and thought they were a good way to present medical information, and modelled her Well Woman Initiative posts after them.
Her colleagues and other doctors in the community give their input to ensure details posted are accurate.
As a member of Young Women’s Leadership Connection, which she joined in 2019, Cai collaborated with ITE College Central and International Women’s Forum (SG) in 2020 to help structure a mentorship programme for disadvantaged female students.
Although she passed on the chance to be a mentor herself, with the volatile pandemic situation keeping her busy, she made sure to still contribute in small ways. This year, she and her team ran a financial literacy programme for kids at a crisis shelter that taught them how to budget and save.
And since 2019, she has been a facilitator at a personality workshop for at-risk youths.
If we can reach children at a younger age or when they’re looking for answers and provide them with perspective and good judgment, we can prevent them from making the mistakes some of us have.
“I love kids and I care very much about the future generations of Singapore. During my early adolescent years, there wasn’t anyone I could go to with questions. And that is the age when you might make mistakes that have consequences later in your life.
“So I believe if we can reach children at a younger age or when they’re looking for answers and provide them with perspective and good judgment, we can prevent them from making the mistakes some of us have,” she said.
Cai cites the charity work of Melinda Gates and her non-profit organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as a major source of inspiration.
Besides carrying out vaccination programmes in developing countries, the foundation also provides contraception to women in rural Africa, giving them control over family planning so they can study or start small businesses to support their families instead of having children year after year.
“My focus may not be on contraception specifically, but I would also like to empower women and give them choices,” said Cai.
“There are many family and gender roles that are placed on women, but I think it’s important that they get to choose what they want to do or be, whether it’s a businesswoman, or a wife and mother. If they decide to stay single, travel the world, or even raise animals on a farm, they should be able to do that too.”
“My message to kids is the same as to women: you can be whatever you want to be and you shouldn’t have to conform to society’s expectations. But no matter what you choose to do, be good at it.”
For more great ideas for you and your money, visit www.uob.com.sg/women
CNA Women is a section on CNA Lifestyle that seeks to inform, empower and inspire the modern woman. If you have women-related news, issues and ideas to share with us, email CNAWomen [at] mediacorp.com.sg.