Hand With A Heart

Physiotherapist couple John Abraham and Sheny John set up Rapid Physiocare with a commitment to offer the best treatments to improve the physical health of their clients 

1/2/2018 8:07:26 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

Helen Keller’s famous words ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much,’ sum up the life and goals of this husband-and-wife team of physiotherapists. John Abraham and Sheny John set up Rapid Physiocare just a year ago with one aim -- to provide the highest standard of care to every patient. 

The clinic offers a whole range of services. It treats musculoskeletal conditions, offers pre/post-orthopaedic conditioning (preparing patients for surgery and boosting post-operative rehabilitation), vestibular rehabilitation (to improve balance and reduce vertigo),   manual lymphatic drainage (a special hands-on therapy to speed up healing and improve mobility), and antenatal and postnatal classes. It also treats incontinence, osteoporosis and other neurological conditions. It also offers training for homecare rehab and caregivers. 

India Se magazine met the two physiotherapists to know more about their work and the challenges that they faced when they decided to set up their private practice. Theirs is an inspirational story of two young people who came to Singapore in their twenties in the year 2000 and worked their way up in the local healthcare system before setting up on their own in private practice. Here are excerpts of an interview with John Abraham, 40, who was at the forefront when the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics decided to make physiotherapy more accessible by launching it in its clinics, and Sheny John, 39, who works closely with oncologists, breast surgeons and ENT specialists.

India Se: Tell us a little about your childhood? And formative years?

John Abraham: My upbringing was very simple as my father was in the army and mother was a nurse in a Calcutta hospital . I was born in Calcutta and studied in Chennai. I have a sister who is a nurse settled in Qatar with her family. Our parents were our role models, and we were brought up with very solid values. I grew up seeing the good things done by my parents. My mom used to nurse a lot of needy people as a form of charity. I have seen many people coming to our house to seek her advice. 

After my father’s retirement, we went back to Kerala and settled there. My dad was active in community life even then. I did my physiotherapy in Ramachandra Medical College, Madras. I met my wife there.

Sheny John: My parents are from Kerala and I have a sister who was here in Singapore. Now she has migrated to Australia with her family.

India Se: How did you choose physiotherapy as a career?

John Abraham: It was my mother who wanted me to become a physiotherapist. It could be because of her healthcare background. But I was not an ace student. I almost wanted to discontinue my studies in the very first year of my physiotherapy course. But I was rescued by Sheny.  She was academically good and was always popular among her friends and teachers. She used to tutor me after class and motivated me to complete my degree. After getting her degree, Sheny came to Singapore to stay with her sister and family. We got married and I came to Singapore.

India Se: After years of working in hospitals, when and how did you decide to set up Rapid Physiocare? 

John Abraham: It was not an easy path for me to get to where I am today. I faced several rejections initially, but things started moving positively after I joined the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP). I am grateful to them. My mentors there were always very supportive and they groomed  me to become a good leader and a successful individual. NHGP gave me a lot of opportunities to grow and included me as a task force member at the Ministry of Health level. We were tasked with starting physiotherapy services in primary centres in 2008. It was launched that very year at the Bukit Batok polyclinic  where I was the only therapist. 

I then went on to receive a Singapore government scholarship – the Ministry of Health’s Healthcare Management Development Programme (HMPD) award in 2012 to do the certification in Orthopaedic Manual Therapy from Manual Concepts at Curtin University, Australia.  

The idea to open our own clinic came in 2015 when a client (a reputed businessman) told me, ‘John, you work magic, and you have the capability and the strength to start your own clinic… you should do it.’ I was hesitant at first but in August 2016, Ms Akila Iyengar (Director of Agrocorp International) endorsed my skills. She said, ‘John, you work with your heart to improve the lives of your patients; you should open a clinic of your own.’  That’s how we registered the company in October 2016. 

Sheny John: I started my career in community hospitals and worked the longest at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, for eight years. But I had to leave my full-time job to take care of my children. Currently I work as a visiting physiotherapist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Gleneagles Hospital. I also work closely with oncologists, ENT surgeons and breast surgeons.

India Se: What have been some of the challenges that you faced when you decided to set up your own practice and how did you overcome them?

John Abraham: We had some fear about starting our own practice, especially when it came to getting clients. But we were very fortunate that our existing clients showed good support, helping us establish ourselves. In fact, our clients became our marketing people and we started to pick up well within three weeks of starting our practice.

We were then positive that things would work out well.

India Se: How do you differentiate yourself from other physiotherapy clinics or practitioners? 

John Abraham: We don’t treat our clients as patients. We see them as our own and we don’t straight away jump to any conclusion. We listen to them and understand their issues without judging their problems. Most issues are due to stress or fatigue and we try to tackle that first and give them confidence.

Sheny John: Most clinics cater to problems arising out of sport, for example, musculosketal issues. Our clinic handles all sorts of cases that require physiotherapy, for example, neurological problems, vestibular rehab, women’s health and incontinence management and paediatrics.

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