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CPHQ Case Study Interview: Aparna Sundar, MBBS, CPHQ

Dr Aparna Sundar is a physician executive at one of Singapore’s public healthcare clusters (integrated regional healthcare systems). She is also an alumnus of Teh & Associates and a recent CPHQ certificant.

Soon after graduating from medical school in 2010, Dr Sundar was hired by her current employer. In her organization, Dr Sundar’s role encompasses a diverse range of responsibilities, especially in the area of patient safety.

Dr Sundar and I first met in Singapore in December 2011 during one of my CPHQ exam preparation workshops. Watch the video below, taken on December 9, 2011, where she gives her feedback about that workshop and mentions her aspiration to become a CPHQ.

Click here to download a transcript of the above video [Microsoft Word—12 KB].

She subsequently joined my private CPHQ coaching program.

Dr Aparna Sundar passed the CPHQ exam on her first attempt on April 5, 2012. We started working on the coaching program on February 1, 2012, i.e. only about 2 months earlier.

Dr Sundar’s success has been a source of great inspiration for a number of people.

To give others the opportunity to learn how she achieved this milestone in her career, we held the following e-mail interview last week. We have deliberately left both questions and answers unedited to preserve authenticity.

1. Why did you want to become a CPHQ?

Immediately after completing my MBBS and internship, I was very keen to work in healthcare quality and shortly after, found myself an amazing career opportunity in a healthcare organisation. Although I knew that I could gain the necessary skills to become an efficient quality professional through work experience, I strongly felt that I needed to build my knowledge with a formal training programme (as my MBBS had only taught me clinical skills!) and be internationally certified. Through my research on a local healthcare quality website, I learnt that the CPHQ credential would give me just the kind of ammunition I needed.

2. What were your major challenges while preparing for the CPHQ exam?

When I started thinking about training for the exam and studying for it, I was apprehensive about balancing full time office work, being a full time wife AND studying for an exam that was known to historically be one of the toughest to crack on the first attempt (a feat that I was hoping to achieve!)

3. How did you overcome these challenges?

I was very fortunate to have support from my supervisors at work with regard to taking time off for my training/study leave and immense support from my husband at home. For the four months that I had dedicated toward studying for the CPHQ exam, my supervisors and husband assisted me in juggling my time between work, home and studying for the exam, as efficiently as possible. I believe that without them, it would have been difficult for me to achieve this near impossible task.

4. There are many options available to CPHQ candidates. Why did you choose Andy Teh to coach you?

Studying for a non-clinical exam was a first for me and I knew that if I wasn’t taught the basics properly and study for it on my own, I wouldn’t achieve the best results. When I did a Google search for “CPHQ”, the first name that popped up for CPHQ exam training was Dr Andy Teh. I had previously emailed another website to find out more about the exam but hadn’t heard from them, so I emailed Dr Teh’s company hoping I won’t be disappointed again. I was pleasantly surprised to find a reply in my inbox from Dr Teh’s secretary within 24 hours of emailing him. Not only did I get a prompt reply, I was also given various options to choose from for my exam training and I could see that they had made every attempt to assist me in the most simple manner possible. I didn’t look back after that and trusted everything would be smooth sailing (which it was!)

5. How did Andy Teh help you to get ready for the CPHQ exam? Describe his approach to the exam in your own words.

The following were Dr Teh’s exam techniques (list not exhaustive) that helped me pass the exam and much more.

  • He used simple examples to explain difficult and abstract concepts that one could relate to one’s everyday work life. This way, the concepts didn’t take long to be understood and there wasn’t much effort on my part in remembering them.
  • He customised his “teaching style” based on my “learning style”. In my case, it was continuous repetition of the basics in order for them to stick in my head!
  • I believed his philosophy of ‘Studying “less” is “more” ‘. Buying too many books/reading material and spending large amounts of money could give one a false sense of security in preparing for the exam.
  • I found every exam tip of Dr Teh on how to intelligently attempt a question very useful. I think these tips would be hard to find in a book.

Overall, Dr Teh’s simple teaching methods, face-to-face learning and teaching with exam questions rather than just theory, were more effective and engaging than fancy slides/presentations or classroom studying. I’m personally not very fond of the latter method; it can be boring and is definitely not effective.

6. You are also a member of the Teh & Associates membership website. How did the site contribute to your exam preparation?

During his first training session, Dr Teh explained certain concepts using his website questions. I also knew that his website had a lot of articles explaining the answers behind the questions. I realised that Dr Teh’s website was going to be immensely useful for my exam preparation and immediately enrolled for membership to gain access to both the exam preparation questions as well as Dr Teh’s well written and easy-to-understand articles. I used both diligently during my entire exam prep period and knew that no other exam book or websites could offer anything better!

7. During your training, you were exposed to many different concepts. Which do you consider the most important “lesson” (for you)?

I had always considered myself weak in information management, particularly presentation of data. Not only did Dr Teh explain these concepts to me in the most effective way, he also helped me apply them to my work.

8. There were probably at least a few things that contributed to your exam success. What were the most important factors in your case?

  • Hard work, hard work and more hard work!
  • Dedicated study hours during the week and weekends
  • Supervisor support at work and family support
  • Inspiration in the form of Dr Andy Teh! (It pays to have someone inspiring to mentor you through this period of preparation)

9. On average, how many hours per week did you spend reading, answering practice questions, and performing other exam-related activities? How many weeks did you spend preparing for the exam?

I spent about 2 hours during the weekdays and about 6 hours during weekends preparing for the exam. During the week I practiced at least 2 exam papers along with analysing the theory. Weekends were used for preparing notes from Dr Teh’s website articles and studying from the prescribed textbooks.

10. What resources did you use when preparing for the CPHQ exam? In terms of proportion of total study time, how much time on each resource did you actually spend? (Example: 50% books, 20% website articles, 20% practice questions, 10% something else)

I used Q solutions to read and understand concepts but not to study. I didn’t think it was going to help me answer questions. Dr Teh’s printed notes, his website articles and questions papers were the only other material I used for preparing for the exam. I spent 40% of my time studying from Dr Teh’s website articles, 30% practicing exam questions, 20% studying from his notes and 10% studying from Q solutions.

11. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 indicates the most extreme ease and 10 indicates the most extreme difficulty, how would you rate the overall level of difficulty of the CPHQ exam? (Give a number)

Before I gave the exam I had rated the difficulty to be 10 but the questions that I got for my exam were relatively easier than what I had practiced so I would rate the difficulty of “my exam” questions to be 7.

12. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently if you had to prepare for the exam again? (Of course, this will not be required provided you accumulate a sufficient number of CE credits.)

No. I think I gave my best shot for the exam and I couldn’t have prepared any differently should I have to give the exam again.

13. Are you willing to tell us your overall score on the exam? 🙂 How satisfied are you with your performance on the exam?

I scored 107 out of 125. I was extremely pleased when I learnt I had passed as I was not confident of passing a non-clinical exam that has a history of being extremely difficult and passing it on my first attempt.

14. You only learnt that you passed the CPHQ exam about 2 weeks ago. In what way(s) do you expect the CPHQ credential to help your career?

I believe that being a CPHQ credential will help me be recognised internationally, as a qualified quality professional and the continuous education required for recertification would further help sharpen my skills in healthcare quality.

15. Did Teh & Associates provide you with a satisfactory level of customer service? If so, can you give an example of something we did that met or exceeded your expectations? If not, please tell us how we could have done things better.

From the first email I received enquiring about the exam till the day I received my results, I experienced nothing but the most courteous and efficient service from Dr Teh’s company. From website logging in troubles, to getting a book from overseas, I was never disappointed with the efficient manner in which Dr Teh’s secretary handled it all. I would most gladly recommend his company to anyone who wishes to embark on the CPHQ exam preparation journey.

Looking for a surefire way to become CPHQ-certified easily and in quick time? Developed and honed through years of research by Dr Andy Teh himself, the Teh & Associates private CPHQ coaching program is the benchmark in CPHQ exam preparation. No other program, technique, or product boasts a 100% pass rate for 3 years running. Contact [email protected] for details on how to enroll.

Please note: Client privacy and confidentiality are paramount in our work. In this case, we sought—and were kindly granted—explicit permission by Dr Sundar to publish this material.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Ramesh Chari May 14, 2012, 11:57 am

    Extremely satisfying to read this article. I, as the father of Aparna Sundar, know what she is cabaple of. The one thing which does not surprise me is the level of committment, her dedication and ability to give her more than 100% to what ever she takes up…All the best to you Aparna and congratulations to Dr Andy Teh for all his efforts

    • Andy Teh May 14, 2012, 3:21 pm

      @Mr Ramesh Chari—Thank you for your comments. We couldn’t agree more with you—Dr Sundar has always demonstrated a drive to excel and a strong work ethic. I’m sure these, among other desirable attributes, contributed to her superb performance on the CPHQ examination. It was a pleasure for me—as well as the rest of my team—to work with Dr Sundar in getting her ready for the exam. We wish Dr Sundar every success in the future.

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