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Business & Profession Glaucoma, Professional Development

Driven by Patient Need

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I enjoy my patient contact the most, because that drives me to look for new treatment options and also to perform more research. I think my patients really drive everything.

What are you researching at the moment?

My research projects are mainly in micro invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) and devices. I have a grant funding which has allowed me to initiate the use of MIGS in Asia. The grant funds the cost of these devices for all of my patients, so fortunately they do not have to pay for them; in Asia, the cost of the devices is a major issue. My data have shown that MIGS devices are safe and effective in lowering IOP in Asian patients. However, the post-operative management for subconjunctival MIGS devices (like the duration of steroid use) differs between Asian and Caucasian patients, as Asians have a higher propensity towards scarring.

What can industry do to help support clinician scientists?

I think industry can help by providing funding for some of the research that we do, as well as resources (implants, for example) in surgical studies. It is also important to allow the clinician to design the study and also to publish the data no matter what it shows. Collaborations between the industry and clinicians are crucial in developing new devices which would improve patient care and outcomes.

What led to your career in medicine and ophthalmology?

I’ve always been inspired by my parents, who are both gynecologists, so that’s why I chose medicine. (They also inspired my older brother to become a surgeon!) As to why ophthalmology, it’s because I’ve had a keen interest in the eye ever since I was very young. The eye, despite being a small organ, is so important; it’s an extension of the brain and it also reflects a lot of systemic conditions. I find it fascinating! The eye is something that you delve into at great detail without ever getting bored!

How has you career progressed?

I studied medicine at the University of Cambridge in England, but came back to Singapore after graduating for my residency training. I then returned to the UK to complete my fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, before ending up back in Singapore where I’m now a consultant in the National University Hospital.

Over that time, I’ve been very privileged to have wonderful mentors, including Paul Chew at the National University Hospital. I have also worked with Donald Tan, Aung Tin, Jod Mehta and Wong Tien Yin, who have guided me a lot in my research. At Moorfields Eye Hospital, I worked with Keith Barton, Peng Khaw, Nick Strouthidis and Ted Garway-Heath. All these excellent mentors have taught me that I should go where my interests lie, as well as be aware of my strengths and weaknesses so that I can be self-aware when making decisions for my career.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Still as a glaucoma surgeon and a glaucoma specialist! But I hope to have developed even better skills in the management of glaucoma, as well as being able to access many more devices and improved methods of drug delivery for my patients.

What advice would you offer to junior ophthalmologists?

I would tell them that they should be very selective in where they choose to invest their energies; their efforts should be directed towards something in which they are not only talented but also interested. Of course, you do initially need to place your eggs in many baskets to find out what most fascinates you, but once you figure that out, you should pursue it vigorously.

You’re married to Marcus Ang – what’s it like having two rising stars of ophthalmology in the household?!

Marcus has been a great encouragement to me; he’s always been very supportive, and I think we’re both very fortunate in the sense that we can discuss ophthalmology and gain insight from each other. We have a 14-month old son, so our weekends are for family time; I try to make the most of the weekdays to complete work. Outside of ophthalmology, we go to the cinema and we travel a lot. I really enjoy traveling – I think it opens up your mind. During our year at Moorfields Eye Hospital, we did a lot of traveling around Europe and I think it was one of the best times of my life.

What inspires your philanthropic work?

My philanthropic endeavors have been inspired by Marcus to a great extent. He’s very passionate about philanthropy and was recently awarded the President’s Award for Philanthropy in Singapore. Marcus is the Director of a non-profit organization, the Global Clinic, and we travel around Asia to less developed countries – such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, and India – to provide free eye care and perform cataract surgeries. Recently, we’ve been trying to do more specialty work in these countries as well. I think it’s very important to empower local ophthalmologists so that they are better able to help their own population. Because we can’t be there all the time, education is a big part of our philanthropic activities; we always partner with local ophthalmologists so that we can teach them how to continue our work within their own communities.

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About the Author

Chelvin Sng

Sng is Consultant Ophthalmologist at the National University Hospital, Singapore; Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore; Honorary Consultant at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK. She was voted #9 in The Ophthalmologist Rising Star Power List in 2017.

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