Dato Dr Leslie Lam

The Sultan's Physician

Following his primary and secondary level education in Singapore and at Blackrock College in Dublin, Dr Leslie Lam studied Medicine at UCD graduating MB BChBAO in 1967.  While at UCD, he met his future wife, Dr Ivy C Yap (UCD Medicine 1969, Dip Child Health 1977) who is family physician in Singapore.

In further studies at UCD, Leslie obtained his BSc (in Pharmacology, studying with Prof. Paul Cannon) graduating in 1969, and a Diploma in Child Health in1975. While doing his BSc, he worked as Tutor in Clinical Pharmacology in UCD in 1968-1969.  Leslie did his postgraduate training in Medicine and subspecialty training in Cardiology in the Dublin hospitals, working with several mentors and lifelong colleagues, including Prof. Sean Blake at the Mater, Prof. Conor Ward in Crumlin, and Prof. Eoin O Brien (at the Richmond hospital, now of UCD Conway Institute.)  He duly obtained his MRCPI and completed his cardiology training in Dublin, before returning to Singapore.

Dr Lam has had a highly successful and varied career as a leading physician and interventional cardiologist, and he has for many years been one of the leading cardiologists in Singapore and indeed the region. Among the highlights of his career are his service for some years as personal physician to the Sultan of Brunei, as well as honorary consultant appointments from the Ministries of Health in Myanmar and in the Seychelles in recognition of the contributions that he and his team in the Mount Elizabeth Hospital Cardiac Centre have made to cardiology in the region. Dr. Lam has received numerous honours during his career, including Fellowships from the RCPI, the Academy of Medicine in Singapore, and the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions of the USA. In 1984, he was admitted to the Most Honourable Order of the Kingdom of Brunei.  Dr. Lam received an Honorary Fellowship of the UCD Faculty of Medicine in 2005, when he also delivered the commencement address at the UCD Medicine Graduation Ceremony.

Leslie has maintained a strong and continuous connection with UCD, and he has given generously to support a newer generation of UCD students and biomedical scientists in their studies. Leslie has demonstrated his passion for Irish heritage and education in Ireland through a number of initiatives. The Annual Dr Leslie Lam lecture at the UCD Medical Graduates Association meetings informed and delighted our alumni for a period of 5 years. Also, a number of our most gifted students have been fortunate to have been awarded competitive Leslie Lam scholarships to undertake summer research at the University of Queensland – recent students engaged in research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Biomarker Discovery and on Hypoxic Ischemic Injury in the neonate, and presented their findings in the highly successful annual Summer Student Research Awards event. Leslie also funded several Molecular Medicine Ireland postgraduate research fellowships at UCD.

In December 2012, Leslie partnered with Prof. Eoin O' Brien to donate the O’Brien-Lam collection, a treasure-trove of Irish literature and heritage, to UCD. This collection includes many priceless original Beckett items, collected by Prof. O' Brien, a noted Beckett scholar. The collection also includes a broad range of historical documents, artworks, photographs, essays and correspondence relating to the history of medical education, Irish literature, Irish history and the history of art.

This last gift hints at Leslie's other, broader interests, which extend well beyond medicine and biomedical science. Among the remarks he made in his UCD SMMS honorary fellowship acceptance speech, he noted that he was fortunate to work under Prof Sean Blake at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, and that during those formative years Prof Blake persuaded him to focus on his career in cardiology, and stop spending so much time scuba diving!

The Lam family are recognised for the generous hospitality in Singapore and Dr. Lam has been a strong supporter of the Irish community there serving as a Director of the Singapore Ireland Fund.   Dr Lam has been a great friend of education in Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in UCD throughout his career, and for that we in the School of Medicine & Medical Science and the whole UCD community are eternally grateful.

In June 2014, Dr Lam was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of the National University of Ireland (Doctor of Medicine honoris causa), in recognition of his achievements in clinical cardiology in Singapore, his contributions to medical education and research, and his support for the arts in UCD and in Ireland.  Only six people have received this title in the University's 160 year history.  In 2017, the UCD Medical Graduates Association honour Dato Dr Leslie Lam with their Distinguished Graduate Award following a citation given by classmate Dr Niall Keaney.

Honours & Awards

  • MB, BCh, BAO University College Dublin, Ireland (1967)
  • BSc (Hons) (Pharmacology) University College Dublin, Ireland (1969)
  • MRCP Member of The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (1981)
  • The Most Honourable Order of the Crown of Brunei Dato Paduka Mahkota Brunei Yang Amat Mulia - DPMB (1984)
  • FRCP Fellow of The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (1987)
  • FAMS Fellow of Academy of Medicine - Singapore (1987)
  • Governor and Fellow of The Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions, U.S.A. (1995)
  • Honorary Fellow, Faculty of Medicine - University College Dubin (2005)
  • Honorary Doctor of Medicine honoris causa - National University of Ireland (2014)

In His Own Words

Speech given by Dr Leslie LAM on receiving the Honorary Fellowship Award in University College on June 11, 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!.

Thank you.