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Respiratory Resilience: A Dedication Unveiled

Dr Ivan Gerald Lee courageously embraced a career in helping patients with breathing difficulties, charting a course of continuous growth and achievement without looking back. As the Head of Respiratory Care Service at Woodlands Health, he stands as a beacon of compassionate care, offering critical support during patients’ most vulnerable moment.
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Dr Ivan Gerald Lee is Head, Respiratory Care and Principal Respiratory Therapist at Woodlands Health. He is also a recipient of the SGH Overseas Scholarship (Respiratory Therapy is now offered by MOH Holdings under the Healthcare Merit Award).

Respiratory Therapists are often the unsung heroes behind the lives of patients struggling with respiratory ailments. It is this understated importance that ignited Dr Ivan Gerald Lee’s journey into Respiratory Therapy.

“What sparked my interest in the healthcare industry, particularly Respiratory Therapy, was the opportunity to help patients who are critically ill and acutely sick, where what we do can make a difference between life and death,” said Dr Lee.

His motivation also came from a deeply personal experience. “My maternal grandmother suffered from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) for a long time and she eventually passed away on life support,” he shared. “I remembered looking at all the life support equipment and devices and wished I knew what was happening back then.” It was this desire to know that ignited his passion to do his best for his patients now.

Dr Lee was awarded the SGH Overseas Scholarship to pursue Respiratory Therapy at the University of Missouri-Columbia. (Respiratory Therapy is now offered by MOH Holdings under the Healthcare Merit Award). His education not only provided him with valuable knowledge but also introduced him to mentors and connections with respiratory care professionals across the country and around the world. This provided him with a comprehensive worldview, offering diverse perspectives from multiple angles.

Dr Lee embarked on his career as a Respiratory Therapist at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) after graduation.

“I truly had an amazing experience at SGH, caring for patients from all walks of life. I also grew beyond my scope of working in intensive care units to caring and managing care for patients with sleep disordered breathing, and from it, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to care for patients in the ambulatory settings as well,” he said.

Indeed, these diverse work experiences broadened his scope of practice and allowed him to gain valuable insights into various healthcare settings and roles. For sure, the experience would have boded him well for his current appointment.

“When you look at the full spectrum of care for the patients, there is so much that we can do, no matter at which part of the care journey the patient may be. Your dedication to the public health sector will be a vital contribution.” Dr Ivan Gerald Lee

A Leader and a Pioneer

Drawing from years of clinical and administrative experience, Dr Lee undertook the task of setting up and establishing protocols at the Respiratory Therapy department at Woodlands Health in 2019. In his current role as the Head of Respiratory Care, and Principal Respiratory Therapist, he oversees the daily operations of his department and the well-being of his teammates, ensuring the delivery of quality respiratory care in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

His approach to this role integrates best practices learned from different hospitals into the services provided at Woodlands Health. Specifically, he advocates for the combination of therapeutic and diagnostic aspects within one department, streamlining the delivery of respiratory care to patients, ultimately with the aim of improving patient outcomes.

Unsurprisingly, Dr Lee regards the establishment of the new department at Woodlands Health as his most significant achievement in his multifaceted and engaging career. His vision of integrating therapeutic and diagnostic aspects looks to set a precedent in Singapore’s healthcare sector, particularly in the field of Respiratory Therapy.

“We pioneered the integration of therapeutics (critical care) and diagnostics (pulmonary and sleep diagnostics) in Singapore’s Public Healthcare Institutions, establishing the first respiratory care department to offer comprehensive services across the patient care spectrum,” elaborated Dr Lee.

On a more humanistic level, Dr Lee appreciates how the role of Respiratory Therapists has evolved when it comes to patient care. “Over the years, I have witnessed Respiratory Therapists gradually taking on more patient care responsibilities and autonomy of care, allowing us to actively partner with physicians to manage the care our patients receive,” observed Dr Lee.

He added: “I am grateful for Woodlands Health’s leadership sharing my vision for continuous, high-quality respiratory care. For one, we sent a Respiratory Therapist for an overseas programme, and this underscores the organisation’s immense support.”

Dr Ivan Gerald Lee

A People Person

Evidently, from how he prioritises patients in his department and his astute observations in the healthcare sector, Dr Lee is very much a people-centric person. He recognises the challenges in people management, a common struggle for emerging healthcare leaders. His belief in the importance of mentorship, knowledge sharing, and succession planning has led him to become a mentor himself.

Dr Lee is not only dedicated to patient care but also actively contributes to various committees within the healthcare system. As a member of the Hospital Code Blue Committee and the Simulations Committee at Woodlands Health, he plays a crucial role in improving the overall quality of care and patient outcomes.

He explained, “I contribute to these committees by providing my perspectives and inputs from a respiratory therapist and educator’s perspectives, thereby ensuring that the patients’ respiratory care needs would be adequately addressed.”

His own educational journey, including obtaining a Master of Science in Respiratory Care Leadership (healthcare management) from Northeastern University, has equipped him for more prominent management and leadership roles. “The hardest part would have to do with people management, and this is what most new leaders tend to struggle with, including myself,” he said.

“I am also fortunate to receive SGH Talent Development Fund sponsorship, allowing me to earn a master’s in Respiratory Care Leadership (healthcare management) from Northeastern University. This education significantly prepared me for advanced management and leadership responsibilities.”

Looking towards his next big accomplishment, he hopes to contribute to respiratory care education in Singapore by training and improving the skills and competency of Respiratory Therapists.

Being the Heartbeat of Change

Dr Lee encourages those who want to make a difference to join him in the healthcare sector. He asserted, “Healthcare scholars decide to be a part of the healthcare workforce for a reason: to provide care for the residents of Singapore. When you look at the full spectrum of care for the patients, there is so much that we can do, no matter at which part of the care journey the patient may be. Your dedication to the public health sector will be a vital contribution.”

He also believes that healthcare leaders and scholars should be domain experts, mastering their chosen profession. “Once we become domain experts in our chosen field, we will then be able to help mentor and guide the junior staff members in our team. Ultimately, having a mentor who is generous with sharing and guiding will be tremendously useful to grow as a leader as well,” he asserted, while giving a glimpse of the collaborative nature of the healthcare industry.

Dr Lee’s journey is a testament to the power of passion, education, and dedication. His innovative approach to Respiratory Therapy and commitment to mentorship are shaping the future of healthcare in Singapore. As he continues to push the boundaries and educate the next generation of healthcare professionals, his legacy will undoubtedly endure.

If you are keen to make a difference in Singapore’s healthcare sector, like Dr Lee, join MOH Holdings as a Healthcare Scholar to explore a rewarding career in allied health!

Woodlands Health currently provides rehabilitative and transitional care services at the hospital, as well as selected specialist services at the Medical Centre. The rest of the hospital, including the emergency department and inpatient wards and services (including Respiratory Care), will be progressively opened from May 2024 onwards.