"Patients deserve your best care, whoever they may be."

Prof Koh Tian Hai, Emeritus Consultant

Conferment of Emeritus Consultant title - Prof Koh Tian Hai

I would consider my most gratifying achievement in mentoring is to see how our NHCS colleagues have selflessly shared their skills and knowledge with successive generations of younger colleagues, without hesitation and fear of being surpassed by their students – was Prof Koh Tian Hai’s reply when asked about his most memorable experience as a mentor.

Not only is he a well-respected and reputable interventionist in the region, Prof Koh is a strong advocate for education. In the course of his career, he had trained numerous doctors local and abroad and a mentor to many. Under his able leadership as Medical Director from 2003 to 2014 in NHCS and subsequently, Senior Advisor from 2014 to 2019, Prof Koh has steered NHCS to always be at the forefront of cardiovascular care in clinical care, education and research, and in pursuit of clinical excellence through knowledge sharing platforms such as overseas exchanges, fellowship programmes and conferences.

Under his stewardship, Singapore LIVE Course (previously known as Live Demonstration Course in Basic and Advanced Techniques), the flagship event of NHCS, has achieved successful momentum for the last 29 years. As course director to this repute international live interventions course in vascular therapy, Prof Koh said that the journey had been testing and challenging, “Organising Singapore LIVE has taught me that perseverance is the key to success. My hope is for the course to grow even bigger in the coming years.”

Widely regarded as a role model for his commitment to patients and public healthcare, Prof Koh’s judicious decision making skills, meticulous attention to details and openness to new ideas have been the catalyst to ground breaking innovations in medicine. Even as much great progress has been made towards advancement in heart care and treatment options, the interventional cardiologist feels strongly that more can be done in preventive cardiovascular care, “To a significant extent, many are still not cognisant of the need to lead a healthy lifestyle in terms of exercise and dietary preventive measures, that are vital to improve Singapore’s heart health.”

His tireless efforts to raise the standards of cardiovascular care in the region has won him the National Outstanding Clinician Mentor Award in 2015. For his contributions to education in Asia Pacific, he was awarded the Chien Foundation Award in 2012. 

Winning the National Outstanding Clinician Award - Assoc Prof Chua Yeow Leng

Winning the National Outstanding Clinician Award - Assoc Prof Chua Yeow Leng

A cardiothoracic surgeon by training, Assoc Prof Chua Yeow Leng has treated countless patients with debilitating heart disease. As a recognised leader and expert in heart valve repair surgery in Singapore and the region, Assoc Prof Chua said that he chose to specialise in this field as fixing the valve can normalise the heart’s rhythm, effectively lowering the risk of stroke in patients.

At a young age of 35, Assoc Prof Chua became the head of the Cardiothoracic Surgery team at NHCS. He led the department through tough times with unwavering dedication, and built on the team’s capabilities with his firm focus on training the younger generations of doctors and medical staff, “You need to know each individuals’ unique strengths and help them reach their fullest potential in every discipline to ensure leadership succession in the institution.”

Assoc Prof Chua believes that healthcare should not be limited to local shores, and should look beyond at how to deliver healthcare to deprived places such as rural areas which face with malaria and emerging disease. Also holding the appointment as the Group Director for International Collaboration Office in SingHealth since 2014, Assoc Prof Chua and his team actively seek partnerships with philanthropic organisations to support outreach and humanitarian efforts to regions such as Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Vietnam.

For his outstanding achievements, the humble veteran credits the team of specialists working together with him as well as the trust his patients have placed in him, “I have so many teachers in my life to thank for the incredible journey I have been on so far. To the younger ones - I say, do your best and learn to enjoy things that come your way.” Congratulations to both Prof Koh and Assoc Prof Chua in receiving the highest honour!

This article is from Murmurs Issue 35 (September – December 2019). Click here to read the full issue.