In the Year of Celebrating SG Women, we present stories which showcase and celebrate women’s multi-faceted contributions and progress at SNEC and SERI.
Join us to honour and acknowledge our team of amazing women who have made impact in the field of Ophthalmology, inspiring those around them with their brand of ethos in life.
Prof Saw Seang MeiCo-head, Myopia Research Group, SERI
Professor of Ophthalmology Research, Eye ACP, Duke-NUS Medical SchoolProfessor of Epidemiology, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, NUSDeputy Co-chair, NUS Institutional Review Board
As HOD, do you lead by rolling up your sleeves, or is your style more to nurture your team and remove obstacles in their way?I like to lead by example, to show the team my passion for research, and provide them with the necessary support, guidance and mentorship. I will provide opportunities for them to develop their own working style and approach, and I always encourage them to attend training courses to improve their skills.
For each individual, I would like to groom and train them to take on larger responsibilities within the team. It’s important to provide room for creative thinking and growth. I also meet my team regularly to resolve problems.
How much of the research you are pursuing has been inspired by personal experience?Myopia has been my primary focus since the start of my research career, which has spanned more than two decades! The evaluation of risk factors for myopia in Singapore was my PhD project in the 1990s; my supervisors from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health motivated me to study myopia as it was an emerging public health problem in Asia then. My husband, Dr Chan Tat Keong, a Senior Consultant at SNEC, was at the time attached to the Wilmer Eye Institute for his fellowship training, and introduced me to my visionary supervisors.
At the same time, I was introduced to my mentors — the late Prof Chew Sek Jin and late Prof Wallace Foulds — both of whom encouraged me to pursue my PhD in myopia epidemiology. Prof Foulds was especially supportive; when I revealed that I intended to launch the first large myopia cohort in Asia after my PhD studies, he agreed that the School Cohort of Refraction Myopia (SCORM) cohort was a worthwhile research project that would define my career.
What are you working on now and how will it benefit patients?My current research work is translational, and focuses on the prevention of high myopia through three strategies. First, the modification of lifestyle factors, primarily through more outdoor time for children. Second, interventions to slow the progression of myopia in childhood to prevent high myopia in adulthood. Third, treatments for pathologic myopia in adulthood.
Our work on precision medicine for myopia will allow the identification of high- versus low-risk children through predictive ocular, genetic or environmental factors, such as myopia progression rates, polygenic risk scores, parental myopia, outdoor and near work time. Thus, myopic children at higher risk of high-myopia complications later in life may be given more aggressive treatment to slow their myopia progression. Ophthalmologists will be able to personalise the treatment for each myopic child based on the child’s risk profile.
What is your favourite memory as a young researcher in ophthalmology?When I was invited to a press conference at my first ARVO meeting as a young PhD student, the late Prof Chew was excited to hear this, and arranged for me to meet a renowned myopia expert, the late Prof Josh Wallman. This took place in Prof Wallman’s lodge in the woods of upstate New York. There we were, discussing the latest mechanisms in myopia research in a glorious natural setting!
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