Traveling around the world and back again
by freelance writer Beverly Knight
The key to success and happiness in any career is the ability to adapt to change, to navigate life transitions smoothly. Learning to cope with these changes can be a challenge, but those who embrace change and look upon it as an opportunity for growth experience the greatest success in life.
Kelvin Ng Say Koon, D.C., '09, is one of those people who has fully embraced the transitions in his life and is reaping the benefits. A native of Singapore, Ng was a CPA working as a tax consultant when he began to think about a career change. Realizing that he had always had a strong interest in health issues, he considered taking a scholarship with a local hospital to train to be a podiatrist.
After his wife, Joanne, suggested that he consider becoming a “back doctor” instead of working on people’s feet, he had his first encounter with chiropractic while doing online research.
“My grandfather, who was a traditional Chinese medicine doctor and a businessman, was an inspiration,” Ng says of his decision to give up his successful six-year career as a tax consultant. “I grew up watching him help people from all walks of life, regardless of their financial status. There was no one in the family to continue his legacy, so I thought I should step up to the plate, but in the chiropractic way.”
As with most transitions, the process was neither simple nor easy. Ng looks back, remembering that most of his friends thought he was crazy to give up a prestigious career for something unknown and uncertain. But his family supported his decision, even though his wife would have to give up her teaching job if they left Singapore for him to attend college.
The decision was complicated by the fact that he and Joanne had exhausted their savings paying for IVF (in-vitro fertilization) in their five-year attempt to have a child. For that reason, when he found Sherman College, he was first attracted to South Carolina’s low cost of living. However, what ultimately convinced him to attend was the college’s commitment to personal attention and its low student-teacher ratio.
With his wife “morally obliged” to finish out the year teaching her high school graduating class, Ng spent his first six months alone in Spartanburg. Home was just a phone call away, but the 12-hour time difference made it difficult to talk to someone when he felt lonely or needed encouragement.
“I could only bury myself in books,” Ng says of his struggle to cope with the curriculum, since his accounting degree had not included the science courses that many Sherman students had taken.
Once his wife was able to join him, everything became easier emotionally, but finances became even tighter. Study loans were unavailable because he was not a U.S. citizen, but a scholarship from Sherman made it possible for him to continue. He persevered and graduated summa cum laude, maintaining the highest grade point average in his class.
Then it was time for yet another transition. Ng returned to Singapore to open his own chiropractic office, Family Health Chiropractic Clinic, where his patients’ ages range from four days old to 91 years. “There is a strong need for native Singaporean chiropractors in Singapore,” Ng says of his decision to return to his home country. “I saw a need to come back to do my part for my people.”
The initial challenge of building his practice, he admits, was learning to explain chiropractic in many languages. Singapore is a multi-racial and multi-lingual society where someone might speak four or five languages. “Conversing chiropractic in these languages was a challenge,” Ng says of expanding his vocabulary over time so that he could “speak chiropractic” fluently with all of his patients.
And at the same time, he and his wife also faced the most important transition in their lives. He and Joanne, who works as his office manager, are now the parents of three-year-old Jay Ler, the son they had long hoped for and who Ng calls “a chiropractic miracle” because Joanne overcame her infertility naturally after she received regular chiropractic care. The struggle to have their own child is one of the reasons that Ng specializes in treating babies, young children and pregnant women in Singapore.