Please give an overview of your role within Optegra?
I’m also Medical Director for Optegra so I look after the day-to-day clinical governance and have oversight of marketing, Eye Sciences research division and the patient services team.
What first attracted you to ophthalmology?
That you can actually make things better for people. A lot of the time in medicine, when you treat someone you are improving their life in terms of getting rid of a disease but not necessarily making them better than before they became ill. But in ophthalmology, we are able to improve them to a stage where they are better than they were, even before developing the problem.
I first decided on ophthalmology during my fourth year of med school, when I was amazed to see the impact of the treatment that clinicians were able to deliver and the huge change it was providing those patients.
What are the most common questions that patients ask you?
When patients come to see us they are putting a lot of trust in us, but they are naturally anxious. They have a problem that has impacted their lives to the extent of losing confidence, or the ability to carry out daily living. They want you to restore that without making anything worse, so the most common question really is, what are the risks? Regardless of what they say, it is important to understand that is at the back of their mind, and so we are honest and reassuring on this matter.
What are your responsibilities as medical director?
This is a huge responsibility, particularly during the time of the pandemic. We recognise that what we are doing, restoring patients’ sight, has to be done safely with respect to their general health, whilst maintaining clinical standards for their eye care.
This has meant we have had to re-develop all of our vision correction and private cataract clinical pathways to incorporate more virtual consultations, minimising patient time in hospital but ensuring we maintain highest levels of quality of care.
What makes you proud regarding the work of Optegra?
I can honestly say the greatest thing at Optegra is improving the lives of the people we serve – whether on the NHS side of the business where we have continued to provide sight-saving
procedures throughout the pandemic, or private vision correction where we improve quality of live for tens of thousands of our patients.
Greatest achievement/proudest moment of your career?
I grew up in a very modest background in Malaysia. Both my parents were teachers, but I remember us not having enough money to even buy a dinner table and having to eat from a door off its hinges and having to study by candlelight.
So I feel very fortunate to be in the position I am where I have reached a good stage in my career, able to help patients, and that I am someone that other surgeons look to for advice, support and teaching.
How would you describe the ethos of Optegra?
To try and be the best we can be in the parts of the ophthalmology world that we serve, and to be known for the highest level of care that can be provided in those areas.
Challenging moments in your career?
Challenging times are where you treat patients and do not get the outcome that either you or patient would like – but because we have built a good relationship with patient, we can see it through to rehabilitate them to the stage that they receive the outcome they initially wanted.
This has been very rewarding to me as a surgeon, and it is also testimony to how we look after our patients at Optegra. We are committed to look after them to reach a satisfactory stage in their journey.
Your top piece of advice around eye health and protecting vision?
The key thing is that many of the issues that can affect vision and eye health in the long term can happen very slowly and silently. So everyone should have their eyes checked regularly every two years by a health care professional. A lot of these issues can then be spotted early and be treated to prevent long-term adverse effects on vision.
What has the pandemic/lockdown taught you?
I think the pandemic has focused our minds on what is important in life – health, family and to be grateful for the things that you have on a personal level. Many of us have a lot to be grateful for.
Equally importantly, it has taught me to treasure the moments we have with loved ones. There have been tragic circumstances where people have lost lives and so we should make the most our lives and spend as much time with those we love as possible.
Your perfect holiday?
Somewhere where I can go with my wife and family, where the two of us can relax and the kids can enjoy. Some warm, beach holiday…which this year looks like Torquay!
Any unusual holiday you have experienced?
We enjoy snow sports and before the pandemic booked a holiday snowboarding in Bosnia, really off the beaten track. We had an amazing couple of days, until warm weather and rain meted all the snow! So we re-planned and toured around Bosnia and Herzegovina, saw old Balkan cities, mosques, shrines – it was a fascinating part of the world we had never been to. We loved it despite losing out on the snowboarding!
Any unusual or quirky recipe you cook?
I spend a lot of time cooking and baking all different types of food, and love to try to plate them professionally like you would see in a fine dining restaurant!
And being from Malaysia, we have a tradition of using leftovers to cook up anything. Basically, not letting anything go to waste – there have been some unusual combinations which have worked…