Beyond the Practice Part 3: Dr Wayne Lee, The Singing Doctor
In part three of our series, Beyond the Practice, the energetic Wayne Lee MBBS, BSc, MBiotech, EMCert, FRACGP, takes us on a musical journey. When Wayne is not singing and wowing audiences with his infectious charisma and joyous tones, he provides first-class primary care working as a GP at Ochre Medical Centre Maleny
When did you discover you had a talent for singing?
I was 14 when I first started singing, and there’s a story behind it.
I was a new transfer student at the time. Being this awkward, new fat kid on the block, my anxiety was off the chart. I was extremely insecure and had difficulty fitting in at the new school. I hardly talked to people, mocked and teased a few times. I was also going through a rough time at home. I remember feeling so lonely and out of place in most of my waking moments. It was bad.
One morning, our class advisor was looking for someone to represent the class at a major school singing competition. Being teenagers, everyone was too embarrassed to do it! While the class advisor was having trouble getting a nomination, something triggered me to put my hand up. I swear you could hear a pin drop! The whole room went silent for a few seconds. Everyone was in a bit of a shock, myself included. I didn’t know I could sing at the time, but I knew I just had to put my hand up. It was an instant reflex that I had no explanation for. Looking back, I’m glad I did it.
I spent the next few months singing and learning my song day in and day out. I eventually found a connection and refuge in music during the process. Few naysayers’ jaws hit the floor hard that night as I went on to win the competition. I’m not gonna lie, it was one of best moments of my life! I felt redeemed and liberated.
The rest is history. I’ve never stopped singing since. Music saved my life, and music saves me still. I’ve always liked sharing this story with kids who have struggled fitting in. It always helps to know that you are not alone, and this is not the final version of you.
Tell us about your experiences winning major singing competitions over the years? It must have been such a buzz!
It sure has! Definitely feeling very grateful for the journey so far!
In 2016, while I was on my first ever paid annual leave as a medical intern in Central Queensland, I had the opportunity to take part in Karaoke World Championship. I had qualified the initial few heats and won the Regional Championship. I was then put through to the State Championship.
After 2 rounds of singing, I was announced as the State Champion to represent Queensland at the National Championship in Adelaide. The National Champion would then go on to represent Australia at the World Championship in Canada. I didn’t make it to the World Championship in Canada that year, but to be able to represent Queensland was such a beautiful and surreal experience.
Fast forward to 2020, my sister had signed up for the inaugural Cloud 8 Singing Competition (which has now become one of the biggest multicultural events in Brisbane), hoping to try her luck with the Grand Prize of $10,000. For weeks, she had been nagging me to sign up so we could “increase our chances of winning that 10 grand”. I was busy preparing for my GP Fellowship exam at the time, naturally I was too anxious to commit. I eventually gave in and signed up at the very last minute of the online registration, at 23:59 PM. Given this was a multicultural event, contestants were asked to represent their cultural background. I represented my birth country- Taiwan.
The next 4-5 months consisted of participating in several heats and rounds of 1-on-1 battles until the top 8 finalists were announced, me being one of the 8. On the Grand Final Night on December 13, 2020, it was a full house in the Brisbane City Hall Auditorium. I had just finished my GP Fellowship exam the weekend prior, not knowing if I passed. I was exhausted and excited at the same time. My friends and family were in the audience, ready to cheer me on. My colleagues from Maleny Hospital had also hired a big van to come support me.
I performed “Feeling Good” and got a rather positive response from the audience and judges. After tallying the judges’ scores with the audience voting, I was announced as the inaugural Grand Champion for Cloud 8 Singing Competition. I kind of had my little Ms. Universe moment there, with the confetti, trophy, giant check, flashing cameras and everything. It was very dramatic, but in a good way. The Grand Final Gala had raised close to $30,000 for the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust.
I have since performed at various major events across Queensland. I later found out that I had also passed the Fellowship exam. I attained my FRACGP a few months after that. I have always considered this a major turning point in my life.
In 2021 I was also fortunate enough to represent Australia at the Water Cube Cup International Singing Competition. It was such a bucket list moment... so much fun.
What are your favourite tunes to cover and perform?
My top 10 tunes are (in no particular order): Moon Dance, Come Together, Man in the Mirror, Feeling Good, Superstition, Uptown Funk, If I Ain’t Got You, Sunday Morning, Somewhere Only We Know, Rolling in the Deep.
Who are your musical influences?
My top 10 musical influences are (in no particular order): Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé, The Beatles, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Queen, Sam Smith, Adele and Lady Gaga.
Why did you decide to take the General Practice pathway as opposed to venturing into a hospital-based specialty?
Although it’s already been said many times, I really enjoy the continuity of care that comes with being a GP. It provides us with the perfect opportunity to journey with our patients instead of just treating pathologies. I love that GPs take the bio-psycho-socio-cultural framework, which means we get to know our patients at a deeper level in order to provide holistic care that also supports who they are as a person. Being a GP also allows me the life-work balance to continue doing music, and not having to miss out on proper self-care or quality time with my loved ones.
Mental Health is a special interest of yours. We have come a long way in terms of providing better care for patients with mental health issues but we have a long way to go. What changes have you seen over the years and what more would you like to see accomplished?
Mental health support has become more available, more accessible and less stigmatised over the years. Having lived with the unpredictable COVID 19 pandemic, we now know that things can get out of control very quickly, and it can happen to the best of us. We have come to a better understanding as a society that suffering is subjective, and suffering responds better to support and acknowledgement rather than judgement and punishment. Our non-judgemental approach to mental health as a profession has made our patients feel safer when accessing timely support services to help them get back on their feet. People are less afraid to seek help in general.
With that being said, I really hope to see more health care workers prioritise their own well-being without fearing judgement or being punished for doing so. Our duty of care to our patients also includes caring for ourselves first, don’t ever forget that!
I’d like to see a fair legislative protection to ensure that health care workers feel safe enough to access the same quality care and the same timely mental health support that we provide to our patients. We, too, deserve help as human beings when times get rough. We have lost far too many of our beautiful, gifted colleagues to suicide, the last thing we need is another version of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” policy. Help is and should always be available for health care workers.
How do your balance your love of music and medicine?
Being able to problem-solve in medicine stimulates the logical part of my brain and gives me great professional satisfaction; while getting lost in the creative spaces of music helps me explore and express my soul and gives me great spiritual satisfaction. I consider both equally vital in my life!
Working as a fellowed GP makes it easier for me to plan my music life after work. I also make it a mission to not bring work-related matters back home! That way I can give it my 100% working as a GP during the day, and then come home to recharge and rejuvenate as a musician in the evening. I also take annual leave to focus on more challenging musical projects or competitions. I also think it’s important to prioritise and learn to say no when required, so I don’t get peer-pressured into activities or people that don’t align with my time, space, or person. It’s a busy life but I love it!
Do you have any upcoming gigs you’d like to tell us about? And what’s in the pipeline?
You can find my music and subscribe to my YouTube Channel “Dr. Wayne Lee the Singing Doctor” via the link below.
On Sunday 14th of August at 1130am, I will be performing a few tunes at the Queen Street Mall Main Stage, Brisbane. There will be hours of entertainment by a group of talented performers. I've been invited to be a judge for the 2022 Cloud 8 Stars Above the Cloud Singing Competition, the same competition that I won 2 years ago.
On Monday 21st of November, I will be co-hosting the Grand Final Gala with the award-winning Katrina Blowers from 7News at the Brisbane City Hall Main Auditorium. I am beyond honoured for such an opportunity to share a stage with her.
Then on Sunday 11th of December at 2pm, I am collaborating with the Queensland Medical Orchestra (QMO) in their upcoming Christmas Concert
What advice do you give to Medical students considering the general practice pathway?
Congratulations on choosing a great training pathway! As a fellowed GP you get to develop special interests, upskill and customise your career to suit your life. Opportunities are practically endless, you just have to be brave to branch out and get creative. The life-work balance is excellent, and I so appreciate being able to spend quality time with myself and my loved ones. I have never looked back.
It’s gonna get hard before it gets easier. Your learning curve as a GP Registrar will grow steeply as you start managing various undifferentiated presentations and deal with many bio-psycho-social-cultural problems that are unique to your allocated community. You will never know what is going to come through that door! Establish a great support system and get into a healthy routine with just the right amount of self-care and self-discipline. Speak to other GPs/ Registrars about their experiences and opportunities. Life will get better after fellowship.
As a GP, I do pride myself in being able to manage most of the common pathologies in the community, and it has really helped improve my Imposter Syndrome. You know you’re doing something right by your patients when they commit to having you as their regular GP, often time you end up seeing the entire family, from newborns to end-of-life patients. The continuity of care in General Practice is so rewarding and you’re always learning something new every day. I love it.
I hope this helps. You’ve got this.
And lastly Wayne, how important is it for doctors to have passions outside General Practice?
Essential! People will continue to get sick, and we cannot fix everyone, nor can we learn everything. Don’t burn out. Allow yourself a dedicated time and space to recharge, reflect and find new inspirations to nurture your soul. Life is short, so live a little.
Thank you for your time today Wayne. You have so much energy. It's wonderful to hear you talk so passionately about both music and the practice of medicine. All the best with your upcoming gigs.
If you are a Doctor seeking more information on pathways into General Practice, click here: