A hundred pairs of mothers and daughters are the subject of Dr Chua Yang’s upcoming photobook, Women Inspiring Women: The Home Edition – Mothers and Daughters in Healthcare. Coinciding with Mother’s Day, the tome of photographs and interviews features 210 women in the healthcare profession hailing from 97 families, a heartwarming look at how professional and familial ties strengthen their connection.
Written and shot by Dr Chua, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mount Alvernia Hospital, who’s also an avid street photographer, the book has an initial print run of 600, and will be given to those who make a donation to the Singapore Medical Association’s SMA Charity Fund, in support of less-well-off young doctors and medical students.
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“There isn’t a lot of news about doctors, nurses and healthcare, except bad news,” says Dr Chua, referencing the Covid-19 pandemic and the intense public focus trained on the medical profession then. “But they’re just regular people—mothers and daughters, with families to look after. So it was about [stepping] away from that work and showing that they’re regular people like anybody else.”
Some of the subjects are personal acquaintances of Dr Chua’s, such as former classmates and doctors she has gone on medical mission trips with, and others were referred by earlier interviewees. Photographed as they are in locations of meaning to them, the subjects shared how their professional motivations were intertwined with their familial bonds, and how they inspired and encouraged each other in their day-to-day.
Women Inspiring Women is an extension of a photography project by Dr Chua last year that featured mother-and-daughter duos, where she chose to highlight healthcare workers in a positive spirit to celebrate Mother’s Day; pay tribute to her late mother, the oil painter Lee Boon Ngan; and mark the easing of Covid-19. The culmination of a full year’s work, the book was a positive distraction for her, Dr Chua shares. “I’m looking after my dad (the oil painter Chua Mia Tee) who’s 92, so it’s a lot of sitting with him and many quiet moments, as he’s not very conversant now,” she explains. “I needed something to make me move, go out, meet people and talk. That’s how this project also fed my own soul.”
One driver for supporting the SMA Charity Fund through Women Inspiring Women was Dr Chua’s concern for the younger generation of medical workers, especially their motivations for joining the profession. “I was worried that more and more medical students are just coming from well-off families and are people who can afford the tuition of medical school to start with, so I don’t know if they have the same passion or the same stomach for it,” she reveals. “As I met so many of the young doctors and medical students, I’m actually quite heartened…Through their stories, they do seem genuinely to enjoy the profession or see the positives in the profession, and genuinely want to do good.”
“It brought me a lot of joy to hear those stories, and I feel very confident now about the next generation of doctors, which is a joyful, unintended outcome from the project.”
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And having Women Inspiring Women be a catalyst for heartfelt conversations between the mothers and daughters has given the project an even more profound purpose. Some of the subjects shared with Dr Chua that being part of her photoshoot and interviews brought them closer together. “Digging up their past history, sharing [their stories], hearing what they have to say [about each other] and realising how their daughters decided to follow [in their footsteps]—it may not be a conversation topic that comes up again and again…it may not even have been said in those words, but now hearing that, they felt so wonderful and they were thankful for me for doing this project,” Dr Chua elaborates.
“They got something back, and I’m very thankful that it worked both ways.”
For more information or to receive a copy of Women Inspiring Women, visit SMA Charity Fund