In 2014, Dr Wong Poh Fei joined Medecins Sans Frontieres (or Doctors Without Borders) in response to her lifelong dream to serve and make a difference where it was most needed.
“I have always wanted to do more, contribute more,” says the Malaysian paediatrician who is based in Australia on a break from field work to spend time with her family. “Once you embark on the normal path a medical graduate takes in Malaysia, you get so caught up in work. So this idea of doing more got shelved until one day I decided ‘if not now, then when?’. Doctors Without Borders was the perfect choice as medical expertise is my strong suit."
Her first mission was to Sierra Leone to work with a small team of paediatricians to keep operations running at the MSF-run Gondama Referral Center during the Ebola epidemic.
The next few missions would take her to Afghanistan, South Sudan and South Africa, where her work ranged from running health centres in refugee camps to managing neonatology departments of maternity hospitals.
“Being a field worker is definitely not a walk in the park, and certainly not if you have overly romanticised ideas of an aid worker. But I can promise you, it could be potentially life-changing. As a wise person once told me, 'If you don’t know where to start, begin anywhere'.”
Wong recounts the experiences that changed her life as she contemplates a return to the field soon for a family mission.