While on a fellowship in Europe, this cardiologist discovered cutting edge technology that was just up her street

She could not have planned it better when she went to the Netherlands in 2009 on a two year fellowship.

During her two years at Leiden University Medical Center, Dr Ewe See Hooi, Consultant, Department of Cardiology, National Heart Centre Singapore, worked with the latest cardiac imaging technology – exactly what her doctorate was about. “Valve disease intervention was in its emerging phase in Europe, and centres there were using the latest non-invasive multi-modality cardiovascular imaging technology for data collation and clinical research. The university was doing a lot of work in this area and it coincided with what my PhD work was about,” she said.

Known as 3-D echocardiography – a moving scan of the heart in real time – this was then the newest thing in the field. Cardiologists could manipulate it to see the heart’s structure from all angles as it was beating, as if they were actually inside the body looking at it.

Now, using the technology in Singapore, she said: “It is fast and quick. You can find the cause of the problem and it is satisfying when you do. For example, a patient who gets suddenly breathless while running a high temperature may have infective endocarditis, an infection where the heart valve can suddenly rupture. With this technology, we can diagnose it in a few seconds.”

Dr Ewe also marvels at how fast technology has moved – from ultrasound and CT scans to catheters running up leg veins to the heart, and now the 3-D echo, which is painless and lets doctors make a better diagnosis while sparing frail old patients from risky open heart surgery.

Although now heavily invested in her specialty, it was not the one she originally chose. “I was more interested in the holistic care of patients. Haemodynamics (how the blood flows) always fascinated me. I chose cardiology because it involved the care of the whole person as the heart and blood vessels connect the whole body.”

Dr Ewe did not just bring technology back from the Netherlands; she also embraced the Dutch attitude to work and play. At work, she found the Dutch efficient, focused, goal-oriented, precise, hardworking; and after work, able to completely relax. “In patient care there is a need to be very efficient, but off work, we need to unwind as that’s where new ideas spring from. So, I disconnect from the digital world,” said Dr Ewe, who is married to a fellow doctor.

Dr Ewe does yogalates (a combination of yoga and pilates) and is a foodie who likes to try new tastes.

Her philosophy in life is to make those she cares about happy and healthy. This includes patients, colleagues, family and friends. She said: “It applies at work and at home too.”