Vascular Voices: Prof. Lai Heng Lee (Singapore)

April 22, 2024

In this series, World Thrombosis Day (WTD) shares interviews with members of its scientific Steering Committee. In today’s profile, learn about Lai Heng Lee, MBBS, MMed, FRCP (Edin), FAMS, Senior Consultant in the Department of Haematology at Singapore General Hospital in Singapore.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the hematology field?

I find hematology very interesting, with a good mix of clinical and laboratory medicine, and a really wide range of subjects encompassing malignant haematology, non-malignant haematology and transfusion medicine. This, in turn, gives rise to a wide repertoire of sub-specialties for career development. I chose coagulation.

What is an average day like for you in the clinic? What type of patients do you see?

For clinical duties:

  • 2 clinics per week where I see a mix of non-malignant haematology cases / mainly on thrombosis and hemostasis cases.
  • 1 clinic per week where I see a mix of malignant haematology cases, including myeloproliferative diseases and myelodysplastic syndromes.
  • 1 clinic per month dedicated to thrombosis cases – usually for fast track appointments and for cases from other colleagues requiring added input on thrombosis issues.
  • We have a roster for inpatient ward coverage and inpatient haematology consult from other departments. I am on these services on alternate months.

What inspired you to join the World Thrombosis Day (WTD) Steering Committee?

I have been organizing local activities for WTD since it was founded in 2014. The goals and mission of raising awareness for thrombosis in the public, as well as amongst health care workers, really resonated with me; especially so after witnessing some really tragic consequences of thrombosis that could have been prevented. Being on the WTD Steering Committee has brought me closer to this mission on a global scale.

How do you rate awareness of thrombosis in Singapore? Is it generally understood among the public?

Within the healthcare fraternity, I think that the awareness has really improved tremendously over the past two decades, as evidenced by the leaps in increase in requests and services for diagnosing venous thromboembolism (VTE), such as Duplex US and CT scans. Although I don’t have specific data, I believe that the awareness in the public has much increased as well, partly due to efforts in newspaper articles, as well as radio and TV programmes highlighting VTE.

What are the biggest challenges you see in thrombosis treatment and prevention?

The reluctance of surgical colleagues in applying universal VTE prophylaxis. However, I think this issue is being addressed in other ways – as much as our surgical colleagues are worried about bleeding associated with pharmacological VTE prophylaxis, there is an increase in other VTE prophylaxis methods, such as the stockings and compression pumps, as well as early mobilization. Improved surgical techniques and procedures have also allowed for early mobilization and reduced bed rest, which will at least partially mitigate the risk of VTE.

Continued increased awareness of VTE in the public is another challenge. Although much efforts have gone into raising public awareness, the public and/or press and media may be tired of seeing and hearing the “same old topic.”

Are you working on any interesting research projects right now?

I do not have any grants for a formal research programme on VTE or thrombosis presently. I am involved as co-investigator in some clinical trials on new medications. I do give advice and help younger colleagues conduct reviews and write-ups on interesting patients.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Bible study, watching movies and dramas online, and traveling.

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