Speech given by Dr Leslie LAM on receiving the Honorary Fellowship
Award in University College on June 1 1,2005.
President, Registrar, Dean of UCD, Fellows of the Faculty & Graduates of 2005.
Thank you for such kind words and remarks. 1 am greatly honoured to receive this distinguished fellowship. This has to be one of the proudest days of my life. It has been some 38 years since I stood in Earlsford Terrace for my graduation but I still remember it very well and with great pride.
After all, I had just graduated from a renowned university with a great heritage. Dublin is internationally known for its medical achievements - did we not produce renowned physicians such as Robert Graves, John Cheyne, William Stokes, Sir Dominic Corrigan, to name a few.
UCD has also trained many doctors from my part of the world, one of whom is my wife. Had it not been for UCD, we might never have met !. My life would have been very different. Two of my siblings are also UCD graduates from other faculties. We all have very happy memories of our years here. My only regret is that my two daughters did not come to UCD. They foolishly opted for some little-known American colleges called Princeton and Harvard. Silly girls, they don't know what they have missed.
So to all you new graduates, I would say, "Be very proud of UCD's heritage and cherish your own memories of your time here."
Tonight, we celebrate your achievements over the past 6 years. However, as interns you will face a fresh round of challenges. The first problem is to find a post that you desire, and this is not often easy. Let me warn you that as interns, you are rated as the least important member of the team. You may find it an eye opener that the staff nurses and sisters of the ward are much more valued by the consultants than you. There is great deal you can learn from the staff nurses and sisters.
I had the great luck of finding jobs with two top cardiologists in Dublin during my training. The first was at the Mater Hospital, which was just starting its heart programme. Prof Sean Blake was a great tutor and my wife reminded me of the sound advice he once gave me. While I was a Registrar, I used to do a lot of scuba diving. On Mondays, the cardiac unit would have its busiest outpatient clinic of the week and of course, after the scuba diving on the weekend, I would be stone deaf. So after a short time, Prof Sean Blake took me aside and asked me if I wanted to be a cardiologist or a professional scuba diver. I chose the former. I am eternally grateful for this advice.
Prof Conor Ward at Crumlin Hospital then told me that I would make a lousy cardiologist if I did not learn some aspects of congenital heart disease. So I ended up working with him for four years. Maybe this reflects what a slow learner I am. Incidentally, Prof Ward is one of the few living physicians with a syndrome named after him -the Romano- Ward Syndrome. Most of the other physicians with syndromes named after them are long dead before they are recognized. I am greatly honoured that Prof Ward and his dear wife have taken the trouble to fly over from London for this occasion. Prof Ward was like a godfather to me. He has given me good advice over the years, and it was he who suggested that there might be more opportunities at home in Singapore.
Some time after returning to Singapore, I was invited to become The Physician and Cardiologist to the richest man in the world at that time, and I gladly accepted. Later I also accepted the post as Honorary Consultant to the Government of Myanmar which is one of the poorest country in South-East Asia. Just to give you the idea of the discrepancy between these 2 countries - my fee for 1 day in the rich county would be equivalent to 47 years' pay for the top consultant in the poor country. My team and I therefore opted to do work there in Myanmar on a voluntary basis, which has been ongoing for the past 15 years.
Let me assure you that treating patients in a poor country has given me so much joy !. It has given me a whole new dimension to my career. Suddenly my work has become so much more meaningful.
Over the years I have come to realize that UCD gave me an education much better than that at colleges which only stress examination results. I believe that UCD gave me a sound medical training marked by common sense. As Winston Churchill once said, "Common sense is not so common after all." I often feel that this is what has allowed me to solve problem cases better than a lot of doctors trained in other renowned medical institutions.
Armed with a UCD education, you are off to a good start in your careers. You have a very bright future ahead of you. I hope that you will have the chance to put your UCD education to good use, and please remember to return something to society when you are successful.
I would like to end by saying to all the graduates, please accept my hearty congratulations. The night belongs to you and your families. Please enjoy it !. You will never forget it !.