By See Foon Chan-Koppen
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Lee Eye Centre’s newly acquired Wavelight Refractive Suite, a state-of-the-art laser vision-correction platform and the first of its kind in Asia, is putting Ipoh on the map for eye care and vision correction. The person behind this move has been quietly making waves (forgive the pun) in the ophthalmology scene since his return to Perak two years ago.
Dr. Lee Mun Wai, scion of renowned Dato’ Dr. Lee Yooi Chyun who started the Lee Eye Centre 37 years ago, has come home to roost and is bringing his expertise in retinal surgery to the people of Perak. As the only Fellowship-trained retinal surgeon in Perak, Dr. Lee has gone to great lengths to acquire his expertise in this very specialised area of eye care.
His medical training has been long and arduous, graduating from the University of Manchester with an MBchB in 1998, accepted by the Royal college of Ophthalmologists, UK with an MRCOpth in 2003; the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (FRCS) in the same year and by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2009 (FRCSEd Ophth).
Various positions in the UK eventually led him to the Singapore National Eye Centre where he was Resident in Ophthalmology for three years.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Dr. Lee decided to further his in-depth study on his favourite subspecialty, retinal surgery, and spent a year in Perth, Australia in a Clinical Vitreoretinal Fellowship under the mentorship of the world-renowned retinal expert, Professor Ian Constable at the Lions Eye Institute.
Returning to the Singapore National Eye Centre after his retinal fellowship and a short stint as Associate Consultant, the yearning for his roots became too strong and he finally moved back to Ipoh to join his father in the now flourishing Lee Eye Centre in Persiaran Greentown.
Singapore’s loss is Perak’s gain as Dr. Lee settled back in his hometown after an absence of 23 years. “I’ve been away since the age of 12, first schooling in Singapore and medical training in the UK. I have always loved my visits back home to Ipoh which was at least twice a year and it feels really good to be back here,” said Dr. Lee.
What he was too modest to add was that being the only Fellowship-trained retinal surgeon in Perak, he is providing an invaluable service for people here with eye emergencies like retinal detachment, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease and other eye diseases requiring specialist intervention.
“The retina is one the most important area of what comprises the eye. I liken it to film in the camera, without which even the best lenses in the world cannot develop the picture. A common affliction that I see often is diabetic eye disease. It is the leading cause of blindness in the working-age group in Malaysia.”
“The macula is part of the retina and is the most important part. A part of my mission is to teach people to go to their eye doctor for a check up regularly especially as they reach their forties. Public Education is poor about the far reaching consequences of uncontrolled diabetes and diabetic eye disease; the sooner caught, the better the chances for halting its progress as unchecked, it can lead to blindness.”
“So what persuaded you to return to Ipoh where most young people shun it, instead of opting for the bright lights of the big cities?” I asked. “Well the Lee Eye Centre set up by my father was certainly a big lure. We are a fully-equipped and fully-staffed eye hospital where we can deal with medical eye emergencies as efficiently as any of the big ones. In fact our equipment is highly sophisticated, on par with some of the best in Asia. The recent acquisition of the Wavelight Refractive Suite is a case in point. This platform is streets ahead of the game in terms of speed, accuracy and versatility. When I came back here I saw that more and more people especially the Baby Boomers, wanted to be free of wearing glasses and so we’re catering to this niche. However, on the more serious diseases of the eye, I felt that I could make a difference by bringing my training and expertise back here to assist the people of Perak.”
And what of your vision for the future? “I used to do a lot of research work and have been widely published in prestigious medical journals but since my return I have been totally caught up in clinical work. However, I’m still compiling data and documenting our work so that in the future I see Ipoh being a hub for eye health where we can share our experience, not only in clinical services but as a centre for research.” he replied.
Ipoh Echo welcomes this Anak Perak back to its fold and may more people here benefit from his return.