Balancing the Grind with Dr Anthony Singh, Specialist Anaesthetist

Dr. Anthony Singh is a highly qualified, skilled and experienced anaesthetist who practices out of Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Anthony Singh’s passion for medicine carried him through his studies at the University of Melbourne, where he completed his medical training and obtained his MBBS and MBA.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’ve been practising as a Specialist Anaesthetist with Austin Health for over 10 years. Most of my medical career has been here in Melbourne – I studied for my Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, at the University of Melbourne, finishing in 2002. After my internship, I moved my career straight into specialising in anaesthesia and have been practising it ever since.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

It really depends on whether it is a day that I am scheduled to be in surgery or not. Surgery days are probably the most interesting to an outsider, but the preparation and consultation leading up to each surgical procedure are equally important.

I typically have 4-5 days per week with surgeries scheduled; from a work perspective those are always spent reviewing the patient’s vital information, medical history, and the plans for the surgery before it is scheduled to start.

The surgery itself is, by design, run like clockwork – but of course both myself and the lead surgeon are vigilant and able to adapt to how the patient is responding. For any major cases, we’ll often schedule a debrief after the surgery to review how it has gone and ensure all formal medical processes have been recorded accurately and signed off, as well as discussing any options to refine things next time.

As a family our favourite way to unwind is going back to Queensland – where I’m originally from – to get some sunshine and visit family. There’s only so much Melbourne weather a Queenslander can take before they need to book a trip back north! 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

Obviously all of my practising work must be done in person – even the consultations with the patients before surgery cannot usually be done over TeleHealth, as we need to take several measurements from the patient. But most of my paperwork and patient data reviews can be done from anywhere, so I often use my home office when I can.

It’s also important that people in my profession stay up to date with the very latest data and research, so I spend a significant amount of time each month on reading and further medical studies.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me the major goal of a work-life balance is ensuring that I have enough free time to spend with my family. Busy work periods can make that challenging at times, but I think it’s important to recognise the quality of the time you are spending outside of work.

If you arrive home from work every day too tired or distracted to really engage in your family’s lives, that’s not much better than just staying at work. I try to make sure I “switch work off” when I arrive home. If I’ve had a particularly busy work period, it is good to look forward to an upcoming short break or holiday.

If I can give any advice to other doctors, I would say that it is important to diarise some time for family, friends, exercise and personal time. Work tends to fill the time allocated to it – unless you have some dedicated non-work time for recreation, there is nothing to stop you coming back from work and just crashing. It is important to nurture relationships with friends and family. It is quite common for non-medical friends to drift away as you’re less present when training and studying.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

The last 12 months have seen elective surgeries in Australia start up again, so surgery schedules have been booked solid from the backlog of patients that were forced to wait during the COVID restrictions.

Such a busy schedule has forced me to run my days and weeks with as much precision as possible, which for me currently means sitting down on the weekend – usually Sunday evening – to get my “ducks in a row” for the week.

I’ve also realised the importance of being present. Whatever your job, when working, it’s crucial to focus on the task at hand. When at home, with family or or with friends, focus on that. Try not to relive the day, but be present in the moment. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Outside of medicine, I like to maintain an active interest in a variety of topics. I follow a number of media and podcasts in the arena of current affairs, economics and world politics. I also have a keen interest in popular music (the 90s was humanity’s heyday) and I get the most out of my Netflix subscription. I enjoy curating music playlists for work – this was recently showcased in a popular podcast series.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I currently feel like my calendar app rules my life!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

Elon Musk. By all reports, he fits an incredible amount of work into each week, so by most people’s standards his “work-life balance” is probably heavily weighted towards work. I’d be curious to hear his take on how he manages that, whether he sees it the same way, and how it affects his personal life.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

The idea of balance is fundamental to a lot of what we know about how the human body works, so this is a very familiar principle in medicine – and especially the impacts of having imbalances.

Imbalances in the human body can cause all kinds of cascading problems, which some people try to correct by medicating the symptoms rather than addressing the core issues. I think the same concept applies to the way you spend your time in life in general; an imbalance in any area – work, health, relationships, finances, etc – if left unchecked will usually start showing up as issues in many other areas of your life.

Some of the surgeries we conduct are to re-create balance that essentially has become impossible to achieve any other way, because the problem has become too chronic and done too much damage.

For some people, when their work-life balance becomes too chronically off kilter, they probably need the equivalent of surgery – that is a specific, intentional, and impactful “course-correction” – which may also include cutting something out of your life that isn’t serving you well. Hopefully before you need a medical professional to help do it for you!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.