WY-LENE YAP: What is your current state of mind?
JADE KUA: I’m focused.
WY-LENE: What is your greatest fear?
JADE: I can’t say I have one. I am relatively unafraid of anything. I am not worried if the world were to come to an end or if the American president is slightly… phoney. These problems will fix themselves. If life ends, then life ends. I have seen enough life and death, and had enough bad things happen to me. So, weirdly enough, I do worry about causing hurt to others. For example, if people’s feelings are hurt—that is something I actively look out for and try to fix.
WY-LENE: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
JADE: Ummm… maybe the fact that I am very sensitive to people getting hurt. I’m just very hypersensitive to how people feel. Even as we speak, I am worried if you’re not liking my answers. It eats up a lot of my time and energy. Let’s say we had a conversation and you told me you were quite sad about something. After you leave, I will keep thinking about it and see if I can make you feel better or solve your problem.
WY-LENE: You might be an empath then.
JADE: Never heard of that before, but I guess I could be it. [laughs]
WY-LENE: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
JADE: Blatant insensitivity.
WY-LENE: Which living person do you most admire?
JADE: My dad. He’s a psychiatrist and a very giving person. He has given so much of his life to our family and his patients. He also cares for the elderly and does a lot work for dementia. When he first came back to Singapore from England, psychiatry wasn’t considered sexy. But he felt there was a huge gap in knowledge and wanted to do more research in that area. With Singapore’s rapidly aging population, people seek his advice on dementia all the time. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved before people are willing to talk about it now. Although my father has given up a large part of his life to society, he has never forgotten about his family. He is always there when I need him, and it makes me feel almost guilty—there are times when I don’t see my kids for days because I am at work. Some people may say, “It’s because you are saving lives.” But, it’s my family. My dad has always been a present father. I can call him right now and tell him I’m having a bad day, and he will stay on the phone with me.
WY-LENE: What is your greatest extravagance?
JADE: I spend too much time worrying about how people feel.
WY-LENE: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
JADE: I wish people could be calm, peaceful, truthful and genuine. When you read the news, people are upset with politicians… and I feel like the different agendas mean that the truth of a situation isn’t always reflected. People choose to manipulate and strategise in order to get to one another—and though their goal might ultimately be for a common good, others might not understand. It would be easier if certain people would just explain the situation and be more genuine, so that others do not feel hurt or misrepresented.
WY-LENE: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
JADE: [long pause] Virtues are not overrated. In fact, I think they are underrated!
WY-LENE: On what occasion do you lie?
JADE: I don’t—and that’s probably going to be my downfall one day.
WY-LENE: What do you most dislike about your appearance?
JADE: Well, I guess I don’t look like how a ‘healthy’ young doctor should look, so it bothers me because some people may think that I’m not walking the walk. It’s difficult for me to give advice to somebody on what the best treatment should be for their illness, when they look at me and think: “She’s kinda flabby, isn’t she?” I am quite comfortable with my body actually, but I just worry what people might think because it can affect my credibility.
WY-LENE: Which living person do you most despise?
JADE: On some days, myself? There are days when I should be getting more stuff done, but I spend too much time worrying about one project, and I fail to devote enough time to my other projects. There are also times when I spend too much time trying to perfect a research paper at work (being too indulgent), and I get home late and my kids are already in school. When that happens, I don’t like myself. I don’t like being an absent mother.
WY-LENE: What is the quality you most like in a man?
JADE: I like a man who is honest. If you’re not honest with yourself, you can’t be honest with people. If you’re not honest with yourself, you cannot identify your own faults or problems. If you’re not honest, you can’t have a meaningful conversation. I generally feel that way about anyone, but particularly more so for a man because I assume that we would have intimate relations (be the father of my children), hence, honesty is very important to me.
WY-LENE: What is the quality you most like in a woman?
JADE: I like it when a woman doesn’t judge.
WY-LENE: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
JADE: “To be honest…”
WY-LENE: What or who is the greatest love of your life?
JADE: My husband and kids (Marcel, Marion, Mark, Mariena, Marissa and Martin).
WY-LENE: When and where were you happiest?
JADE: Recently, before we moved, we lived in Tiong Bahru. At that time, I was trying to capture a family photo, but it didn’t really work out so well. The baby was crying in Martin’s arms, Marion was sorta wiggling around, and Mark was going through a stage where he would open his mouth really wide to show off his ‘Tiger’ face (since he is born in the year of the tiger). The whole situation was chaotic and although we didn’t get a great, conventional family shot with the kids, they laughed so much. In that moment, I felt so happy, and I will always treasure it for a long, long time.
WY-LENE: Which talent would you most like to have?
JADE: I’d love to be able to cook. I can’t cook for my family, but my husband does. I have a hashtag called #emilcooksieat. Cooking, to me, is a very intimate form of nurturing your family and friends.
WY-LENE: I can’t cook either. [laughs]
JADE: We can hang out in a sad corner then. [laughs]
WY-LENE: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
JADE: I would like to be more disciplined with my time.
WY-LENE: If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
WY-LENE: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
JADE: Being relevant to my family, friends and society.
WY-LENE: If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
JADE: I would probably be a packet of curry powder.
JADE: My husband makes curry powder and we give it out during special occasions like Christmas, Chinese New Year, Birthdays, etc. This curry powder is his grandmother’s recipe, and it is made with love. It is also very much about the taste of tradition and family. When the kids are back home, they will help to pack the powder into little packets and place a little sticker on it. And the sticker says, “Made Exclusively with Child Labour”. There’s a touch of irony and humour. So, if you were to distill the essence of me, it would be that packet of curry powder.
WY-LENE: Where would you most like to live?
JADE: I love the ocean. If I had gills, I would want to live in the deep ocean.
WY-LENE: What is your most treasured possession?
JADE: A pair of hounds that was given to me by my husband.
WY-LENE: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
JADE: When you’re trying to solve a problem but you cannot be honest with yourself about what those issues may be. You struggle because deep down, you’re afraid that it is you, who has to change. It’s miserable because no one can help you, but yourself. It’s torment because you cannot move on until you come to terms with yourself. Your internal prison is much worse than any external prison someone else puts you in.
WY-LENE: What is your favourite occupation?
JADE: I’m a doctor and I am very happy being one.
WY-LENE: What is your most marked characteristic?
JADE: I’m honest to a fault.
WY-LENE: What do you most value in your friends?
JADE: Okay, I don’t wanna seem like I’m harping on this whole honesty thing too much, but I do value when they are honest, logical and do not get emotional easily. For example, if I invite X to a party, and X tells me that she can’t come to the party, then it’s cool because I can move on and ask someone else. I don’t want X to think that I’m insincere, now that I am going to invite Y instead. I just want things to be as matter-of-fact since X told me that she can’t make it, so it doesn’t get personal. When there are fewer messy emotions out there, I will have less to worry about.
WY-LENE: Who are your favourite writers?
JADE: Patricia Highsmith and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They both write about sleuthing and mystery—and that’s a huge part of what I do at work. My patients don’t come and see me with a tag that says "cancer". Instead, they tell me a host of problems and I enjoy figuring out what is exactly wrong with them—if they are in pain, what is the root of their pain?
WY-LENE: Who is your hero of fiction?
JADE: Sherlock Holmes.
WY-LENE: Which historical figure do you most identify with?
JADE: Presently, we live in a very unique time in history and I can’t seem to identify with any historical figure.
WY-LENE: Who are your heroes in real life?
JADE: My dad is one of them. I never thought I will say this, but my mother-in-law too. She is also a doctor and very ‘Chinese’ lady. When I was doing my confinement, she was very strict with me and I hated her during that time. She would tell me that it is very bad for a woman who has just given birth to drink ice water because the “wind” will enter her body. But here’s the thing: she is western trained, started IVF in Singapore, and is also one of the first few to do laparoscopic surgery… very brainy and academic, yet still true to her roots and principles. It is a very rare trait to be so unafraid and to tell it like it is. She was right actually—when I followed her advice, it worked.
WY-LENE: What are your favourite names?
JADE: Names that fit a person’s face and personality are the best. If I look at my daughter, she is totally a Marion.
WY-LENE: What is it that you most dislike?
JADE: I dislike any shade of dishonesty—whether it is in the form of hypocrisy, a white lie or some faint excuse just to get by.
WY-LENE: What is your greatest regret?
JADE: It’s too much of an indulgence when you dwell on something that has already happened. To me, the word “regret” has a very negative connotation. I don’t regret in that sort of indulgent “if only/ I should have done this…” way. When you regret, you don’t live in the present.
WY-LENE: How would you like to die?
JADE: I don’t have a preference? I know how I would like to live. [laughs]
WY-LENE: What is your motto?
JADE: I don’t have one.
WY-LENE: What is something you used to strongly believe and now you don’t believe anymore?
JADE: I used to believe that I could fix anything I set my mind to do. But now I realise that time is finite, and I have to do the best with what I can.
WY-LENE: What’s the most unexpected thing you have learned along the way in the past few years?
JADE: I’ve learnt that I can accept imperfection.
WY-LENE: Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
JADE: I would rather lose all my old memories.
WY-LENE: What will health care look like in the next 10 years?
JADE: I don’t know because everything we know now, might not be relevant in the next 5 years. Medical protocols that I learnt when I was a student (like how to manage a trauma patient) were taught differently to me when I was a registrar. It is really important to be flexible and adapt to new practices.
WY-LENE: What are the biggest misconceptions people have about the medical profession?
JADE: People think that it is a science; we have set protocols to follow, we can be replaced by robotics/computers… but it is actually an art. We do need that human touch—whether it is in a form of a nurse, a clinician, or a doctor… it’s about reading the patient’s eyes when he or she says something, it’s about looking at small body movements—there is a lot of sleuthing involved. I don’t see how a computer or whatever programme someone has written could do all of that.
WY-LENE: If you had the power to cure any disease in the world, what would it be?
JADE: I am okay with accidents, illnesses, bacteria, viruses, but it is very difficult when the body cannot heal. If you have a particular virus that attacks your immune system, and you can’t go through that stage of healing, then there is no hope of renewal, no second chance, so the state of healing is what I am more concerned about than a disease per se.
WY-LENE: Do you believe that human beings are fundamentally good?
JADE: We have a very great capacity to sin.