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Beautiful Transformations
31 December 2021

A firm advocate of hospice care, Dr Tay decided to commission the Metamorphosis series in support of HCA, after learning about his patient’s pay-it-forward project. Above: The HCA team held an unveiling for the Metamorphosis paintings. From left: Tracy, HCA CEO Ms Angeline Wee, Dr Tay Eng Hseon, Mrs Tay and HCA Resident Physician Dr Keson Tay, who is also Dr Tay’s son.

By Toh Wei Shi, HCA Community Relations

The metamorphosis of a butterfly is akin to the journey of life, encapsulating periods of growth, disruption and reflection. It is also a fitting metaphor for the palliative care movement in Singapore, which has gained traction rapidly since its humble beginnings in the 70s.

Metamorphosis is the theme that underpins the series of paintings commissioned and donated by Dr Tay Eng Hseon, to show his support for HCA. The Metamorphosis series follows the five-panel Remembrance series, which is part of the Life Art initiative kick-started by Tracy, after a health scare early last year. Conceived as a pay-it-forward project, Tracy collaborated with local faith-based group Sound of Art, on the production of the five-panel Remembrance series, to raise funds for HCA.

“I told Dr Tay, my surgeon, ‘You operated on me and the Life Art was born’, Tracy quips. “I shared about the Remembrance series and to my surprise, he said he wanted to purchase all five paintings.”

However, as two of the five paintings had already been sold, Dr Tay decided to commission another series, to be completed in a similar fashion to the Remembrance series.

Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis series is the second set of artworks painted by Sound of Art artist Glacy Soh, together with HCA’s Day Hospice patients. A commentary on the journey of growth is woven into the five-panel series, which depicts the life cycle of a butterfly. 

Through the life cycle of a butterfly, the Metamorphosis series depicts the experiences of exploration, connection, disruption, reflection and transformation.

Dr Tay, who is a veteran specialist in the field of gynaecological oncology, has a unique take on the connection between hospice care and the notion of metamorphosis.

“When I first started my work in gynaecological oncology, hospice care in Singapore was just budding,” Dr Tay says. “It is an essential service that will define a comprehensive care for life.”

“As we go through life, we metamorphose physically, professionally, socially and finally spiritually. Hospice care sits in the crossroads of one of such metamorphoses – if not the most critical one.”

Proponent of Hospice Care

The work of HCA requires all hands on deck. From staff to volunteers and donors, each person plays a role in advancing hospice care.

For Dr Tay, who has witnessed the evolution of hospice and palliative care, commissioning the Metamorphosis series was a gesture of support and encouragement for HCA and its staff. “Back when I started out in gynaecological oncology, visionary physicians were developing the service into a specialty care and HCA was amongst the pioneers,” he shares. “Countless patients have greatly benefited from it. The Ministry of Health was supportive and many compassionate doctors enrolled into it. Hence, naturally, when the opportunity presented, it was a privilege for me to support HCA.”

The unveiling included a tour of the heritage murals at HCA’s headquarters, which showcases the history of the palliative care movement in Singapore.

As the population ages, access to quality hospice and palliative care services becomes even more crucial. “Hospice care has become an essential part of medical service in Singapore and eventually patients’ demand for it will further escalate in the face of reduced family size,” Dr Tay shares. “In fact, I would say it will develop into a key component of community medical service.”

A Fresh Start

Dr Tay generously decided to donate the Metamorphosis series back to HCA after learning about the devastating fire that razed most of HCA’s headquarters earlier this year. “I wish to honour all the compassionate staff of HCA and recognise their very important contributions, to a very special medical care and to humanity,” Dr Tay explains. “The recent fire at the HCA’s HQ made it an even more compelling reason.”

Dr Tay commissioned the Metamorphosis series for $25,000, which was donated to HCA.

The recovery process to restore HCA’s headquarters took many months, due to the extensive damage and pandemic-related delays. The Metamorphosis paintings now take pride of place at the entrance of the newly renovated office, signifying a fresh start.

From an initial idea to pay it forward, Tracy’s project has metamorphosed into an impressive movement of giving, with the support of like-minded individuals and organisations.