Leong Lee – Consultant Interventional Cardiologist
ALMOST 7000 miles away, a little boy grew up surrounded by a family of medical professionals, little guess then, that he would be inspired to follow in their footsteps to become the man he is today – one of the leading cardiologists at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust (SWBH).
Leong Lee (41) grew up in Malaysia and came to England when he was 17. He studied at Malvern College before attending Medical School in Cardiff.
Speaking about his motivation to become a cardiologist, Leong said: “I felt cardiology is a very special area, where the combination of best practice in medicine and surgery meet. A cardiologist can play a number of roles, being a radiologist, a surgeon and a physician all at the same time.
“The more I learn about cardiology, the more I see the huge impact it has on saving lives. Moreover, being a cardiologist allows me the privilege to be with patients throughout their whole journey, from when they are admitted to the hospital, receiving lifesaving treatment, to when they are discharged.”
Leong explained that it was not an easy journey to reach where he is today, he recalled: “When I started my training in cardiology, it was extremely competitive. I was lucky to be chosen to undertake the research fellow post with the British Heart Foundation in Cardiff and Oxford, which then helped me to study cardiology later on. When I was doing my research, I realised how beneficial clinical research is to patients. I was also lucky to be surrounded by the people who devoted their life to science, medicine and cardiology. I guess my work ethic was greatly influenced by those inspiring individuals.”
Consultant Lee has recently joined the Trust as an interventional cardiologist. His main expertise is to carry out procedures to open blockages built up in coronary arteries. Speaking about working at the Trust, he said: “My team is very friendly and proactive. They are all self-driven people continually improving their skills.”
“I am also in the on-call team, which means my colleagues and I will take rotation to be on-call overnight, so we will come to the hospital on short notice when there is a need for an emergency treatment, e.g. when there is a heart attack case that needs to be treated immediately. This is a 24/7 service and we have been providing this service since 2004. We were one of the first Trusts in the country that launched this special service to our community. Last year, we treated approximately 250 patients with heart attacks so the team had to be on-site every day and at any time.”
When thinking about his most memorable occasions at work, Leong said: “I remember one patient with a long standing blockage that clinicians from two other hospitals could not open in the traditional way. I decided to use a special technique that I learned from my fellowship in Australia to successfully open that patient’s blockage. I still remember when I saw the patient again in clinic, he told me that he felt like a new man and that made me feel it was all worthwhile.”
“I think what drives me at work is to see patients getting better care. I keep learning everyday so patients can receive the best treatment for them. At the end of the day, our focus is really about our patients’ well-being.”
Leong Lee’s recent achievement was his contribution to the reconfiguration of the Trust’s cardiology department, where two new state-of-the-art catheter labs were commissioned and the department was centralised at City Hospital.
Although being very busy with work, Leong still manages to play guitar in his spare time. He has also set up a rock band within the cardiology department. He said: “Music is a good way to relax my mind. I think I was influenced by my dad as he is a doctor as well and he told me that it was important to have a good personal life. No matter how successful you are, you really need a well-balanced life to enjoy it fully.”
Leong’s next challenge is to organise a special training session that invites world-leading cardiologists to the Trust to train the team in special techniques. His overall ambition is to help the cardiology department at the Trust become the best cardiac centre for the whole region.
Leong also explained why he was so passionate about self-improvement, he said: “My deepest fear is to stop making a difference to someone’s life. I think it would make me feel obsolete in this world. That’s why I keep encouraging myself to learn and do more so I can help to make people better and that’s how I can define the meaning of my life.”
Leong’s heroes are his parents and mentors. He said: “My parents have supported me all my life and are my inspiration. I also have high regard for those that have taught me in school or later in life. I am thankful for the knowledge and skills they have given me and so I make it a point to pass on this knowledge to others.”