Ryna Tan,  
Senior Manager, Human Resources Department

Seven years ago, I joined the Duke-NUS Human Resources (HR) Department to manage the area of staff compensation and benefits and HR information system.

Over the years, my portfolio has expanded to include manpower budgeting, external grant claims on manpower expenses, payroll reconciliation and shared services.

It has been a rewarding and challenging journey, both at work as well as my personal life especially during the early years.

During my second year at Duke-NUS, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A lump on the breast turned out to be cancerous. I went through a nine-month treatment involving surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The side effects of the chemotherapy were not as bad as I had imagined except for the hair loss, which I initially found hard to accept. Other than that, my appetite continued to be good despite losing about 8kg. Thanks to my Mum’s cooking, I regained the weight that I had lost.

During the treatment, I kept myself active by taking short walks at the park. Perhaps the fact that I was a runner during my school days and my marathon training helped me better cope with the illness.

Marathon running has helped to build up my mental strength when I am pushed to my physical limits. The encouraging quotes along the marathon route inspire runners not to give up, and to put mind over body, which serves as a good reminder that the power to overcome our personal limitations is all in the mind.


Spending time with loved ones

(L) Family time with my niece and nephew at River Safari (R) Annual getaways with my husband - that is us in Switzerland!

The strong support and understanding from family, friends and colleagues helped a lot! I think it was equally important for me to also remain strong, positive and optimistic for them.

Life may not always be smooth sailing. The more important question is how we make the best out of it. To me, this episode served as a personal wake-up call. Prior to diagnosis, I was not very mindful of my diet. Now I try to have a more balanced diet with more vegetables, fruits and less fried food. Occasionally, I still enjoy my favourite dishes, such as creamy butter crabs and curry fish head. Moderation is definitely the word! I also maintain my thrice- a -week exercise regime to maintain an active lifestyle. This includes jogging, swimming and cycling. September this year will mark the fifth year since my treatment. I look forward to maintaining a clean bill of health and saying goodbye to all the medication!

Life is too short to keep dwelling on the past and things that are not within your control. My personal mantra would be: Just do your best and then leave the rest to fate!

The Insider would also like to congratulate Ryna for being one of the 2014 Achiever's Awards recipient. We invited her boss, Mr Ng Kok Eng, Director of Human Resources to say a few words.

Said Kok Eng, "I have worked with Ryna for the past six years and she has always been exemplary in her work and well respected by her team mates. Ryna is truly deserving of this recognition and I am extremely happy for her."

The Insider: We would also like to recognise our other 2014 Achiever’s Award recipients. Congratulations to Ms Lai Yih Shin (Office of Research), Ms Katheryn Maung (Joint Office of Academic Medicine),  Dr Lai Siang Hui (Office of Education) and Mr Reza Shah (Office of Communications, Organisational Development and Alumni Relations).