Alumnus Profile: Dr. Les Lee, PhD '19

Tell me a little about you.
I am from Singapore and am currently a senior consultant in Family Medicine at the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP) in Singapore, I am also the deputy head of the Clinical Research Unit in NHGP and an adjunct assistant Professor at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

Where were you born and raised?
I am born and raised in Singapore.
What degree(s) do you have, and from what universities?
Bachelor of Science (Medical Science) - BSc(Med Sc)
Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery - MB ChB
(From Aberdeen University, Scotland, UK)
Master of Medicine (Family Medicine) - MMed (FM)
(From National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Fellowship of the Collegiate of Family Physicians - FCFP
(From the College of Family Physicians, Singapore)  

Where do you practice medicine and in what scope? What are your research interests?
I practice in Hougang Polyclinic (one of the six polyclinics within NHGP) - it is in the north eastern part of Singapore. It is a large multi-doctor primary care centre with Nurses, allied health professionals like dietitian, psychologist, medical social worker and a Podiatrist. The polyclinic has an in-house laboratory service, radiology service, dental clinic with up to seven chairs, and a pharmacy that uses robotic automation system for packing medication. The polyclinics serves up to 1200 patients a day.

My research interest is in multimorbidity - patients with multiple chronic diseases, chronic disease management and patient-centred care.

What special interests or hobbies do you have?
I like to collect interesting and uplifting quotes and organise them into categories and I use them to perk myself up when I am down or negative. I use the same quotes to help lift my colleagues and patients too.

Why did you choose to pursue a PhD in the Department of Family Medicine at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?
I visited the Centre of Studies in Family Medicine in 2013 and observed firsthand the excellence of the research done by the various researchers. I am also deeply inspired by the work and teachings of Dr. Ian McWhinney and the legacy that he has left behind.
Is there an experience of your time in the program that stands out for you, an “ah hah” moment?
The most valuable time I experienced was with the last six intensive months with my supervisor - Prof. Moira Stewart. The ‘Aha’ moment was when she insisted that I stop doing more and more things, but sit down and think! I was struggling with the ‘denominator’ to use for my epidemiology study, and I really struggled. I felt that there was really no time to waste. That was the first time that I spent close to three hours sitting on my balcony thinking quietly and voila! I managed to straighten things out finally. 
How do the writings and the person of Dr. Ian McWhinney influence your work in your career overall?
Very much and everything!

With my administrator role, I have often highlighted the problems encountered by our patients and clinicians to continually improve and reduce the imperfections of our current system. I have always felt that the imperfections of the healthcare system are imperfections that both clinicians and patients have to accept and endure especially when we have been trying so hard to improve the system. So when patients complain and experience inconvenience, my justification is that we have already done our best and it is really unfortunate. Period. After immersing myself in the course and sharing all the encounters online with my fellow course mates, I have come to realise that my care is not that ‘patient-centred’ afterall.

“Patient-centred care is the willingness to become involved in the full range of difficulties individuals bring to their Doctors, and not just their biomedical problems”.

What has been your greatest experience to date in your teaching / research career?
It was just in the last three months of my thesis writing that it dawned on me that I know my stuff quite well and that I felt confident to share and teach about basic research concepts. In a recent research meeting with very established and renowned researchers, I found myself bringing up important things that have been overlooked and suggested some improvements to the planned analyses. 

In the last few weeks, I have been teaching and giving advice to junior researchers with much confidence and sharing what I know.

These experiences were great! I felt the confidence to share my knowledge and impart it to other people. That was the main reason why I partook in the PhD program to help improve the culture and capacity of research in primary care in Singapore.
What are your beliefs about Department of Family Medicine’s patient-centred care approach or education in healthcare through clinical excellence in general?
As mentioned above, we need more clinicians to practice them and not just merely do lip service. It needs to be practised and patients and their caregivers will feel and know it.
What MClSc / PhD learning have you incorporated into your family medicine practice as a result of the program?
My research interest is on managing multimorbidity in primary care. There are currently no successful interventions suitable for managing the burgeoning problem of multimorbidity in our ageing population. Person-centred care and minimally disruptive medicine are probably the two best conceptual frameworks for all patients we encounter and especially for patients with multimorbidity.
Has your teaching / research changed as a result of the PhD program?
I have been doing more qualitative research to collect rich data as a result of the program. The program has taught me to be comfortable with both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.
What would you consider the single most important benefit of the PhD program?
Independent thinking.
It is a great program with many dedicated teachers. Kudos to their experience and professional ethics, I am very grateful for their friendship and guidance.