Please give an overview of your role within Optegra?
I am a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Optegra and with the NHS in Yorkshire. I have a speciality interest in oculoplastic procedures (eyelids), lacrimal (tear ducts) and orbital conditions (mainly thyroid eye disease, artificial eyes and orbital tumours).
These services have been offered at Optegra since 2008 and these conditions can account for almost 10 per cent of all eye conditions seen in hospital eye services.
The most frequently diagnosed eyelid conditions include in-turning eyelids (entropion), eyelids that are out-turned (ectropion) and droopy eye lids (ptosis). Eye lid lumps are also common and roughly five per cent of these are malignant e.g. basal cell carcinomas; in fact, periocular skin cancers is one of the most common of all skin cancers as our eye lid is one of the most exposed areas of our skin.
What first attracted you to work in this field?
It is because it is a very varied and visual field. The conditions I manage not only affect patients’ eyelids but also the eyes which can become exposed and affected by dryness and redness. Therefore, it also affects a patient’s appearance.
The surgery to correct it is also very interesting as there are different options, so I can select the most suitable. Then in terms of results, unlike cataract which in a sense is subjective as to the results, with eyelid surgery, you can actually see how good the results are. In my specialty we must be meticulous and careful and conduct the procedure in such a planned way to get as good an outcome as possible.
Ophthalmology generally appealed as it is a great mix of medicine and surgery; and also in my practice I have such a range of patients, from babies up to the elderly.
When did you start working with Optegra and how did that come about?
Way back in 2003 a group of Yorkshire eye consultants invested and built the original Yorkshire Eye Hospital in Apperley Bridge. I was a young consultant at the time but part of the team setting this up. When it was bought out by Optegra, I continued to work there as it is great to be in a dedicated eye specialist hospital where you can manage private and NHS patients together.
Can you explain to me your role as President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists – what does that involve?
In addition to my clinical work, I am currently President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, which is a great honour. The College is there to set the standards of practice for all ophthalmologists in the UK and to promote research and academic ophthalmology.
As president, my role is to ensure the college continues to be the ‘go to’ body for anything related to eye care, in particular practical guidelines, training and education, and standards of practice. The College also sets the exams for ophthalmologists and writes the curriculum needed for ophthalmologists to become consultants.
What brings you joy in your work?
Seeing patients and being able to help alleviate their eye conditions. It is a privilege to have their trust.
Your top eye health advice for patients?
Generally, do not smoke as we know that has associations with cataract and macular degeneration. It is also very bad for patients with thyroid eye disease.
It is important to have a good diet of foods like spinach, kale and carrots which contain vitamins, antioxidants and lutein, which are good for the health of the eye especially the retina.
Exercise is also good; and lastly – always go and see your optician for regular eye health checks as they will pick up eye problems earlier and refer appropriately.
Are you still involved in training overseas?
Yes, as part of my work with Leeds teaching hospitals we offer oculoplastic fellowships which are open to applicants from all over the world. Our current fellow is from Israel, previously they have been from Greece, Lithuania, Malaysia and Pakistan.
I also have a particular link with Malaysia – my place of birth – and am a Visiting Professor of Ophthalmology, having been awarded this Chair from the University of Malaysia Sarawak; I teach out there every time I take a trip out.
How has your work changed since the pandemic?
Clinically we are now doing more virtual clinics and as there is a big backlog, all of us are trying to catch up, particularly on surgeries.
Regarding my Presidency, it has very much focused on guiding members through that period but is now all focused on the transformation of eye care services so we can see more patients more quickly using appropriately trained professionals in appropriate settings including in the community.
Greatest achievement of your career?
I have to say that being elected President of the Royal College has got to be up there – particularly as you are elected by peers. It is always an honour when colleagues feel you are the person to lead them nationally and internationally.
It is a three-year post; I have done two so far – very much as the ‘covid president’!
Your perfect holiday?
With the family on a beach. My wife is from Trinidad, and with my Malaysian roots, we tend to mainly visit the Caribbean or South East Asia.
Any unusual or interesting hobby?
I’m something of a wine buff! I enjoy learning about them and have a small collection of wines now.
Favourite recipe you cook?
I love to cook Malaysian food, of course, and as for a favourite dish? All of it! Soya sauce chicken is very popular in our home.