Meet two dynamic women who are working towards improving the lives of people. ENT specialist Dr Lynne Lim is working on cutting edge research while Lekha Patmanathan is helps companies improve energy efficiencies through smart solutions
6/15/2018 5:43:34 PM
|written By : Nithya Subramanian|
They are spunky, smart and want to make a difference to the lives of people. One is an Ear Nose Throat (ENT) specialist who works towards bettering the hearing functions in young and old and the other helps companies improve energy efficiencies. Meet Dr Lynne Lim and Lekha Pathmanathan.
Lim has been in the medical profession for over 20 years now, specialising in ear-related problems. While she has set up two private clinics, her passion for research and the academics still persists. She is spearheading some seminal research to tackle the problem of glue ear while also leading many surgical workshops and complex surgeries. She has been on the advisory committees of airway and hearing/ cochlear implant centres in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Middle East.
Pathmanathan, on the other hand, recently co-founded, Nexergy a company that offers award-winning and globally deployed energy efficiency technologies to organisations in Singapore and Malaysia. These technologies improve the performance of chiller, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems by up to 40 per cent making energy and carbon reduction, simple and profitable.
Read the inspiring stories of these middle children who have managed to carve out a formidable place for themselves.
ENT specialist Dr Lynne Lim has been working on ground-breaking research to treat ear problems in young and old
The first thing that grabs your attention when you enter the consultation room of Ear Nose Throat (ENT) Specialist Dr Lynne Lim is a custom-made Lego model of the intersection of the human ear. So when we asked her about it, she told us she specially ordered this from Korea, clearly indicating her passion for her area of medical specialisation. But her interest in Lego could perhaps hark back to her ambition of becoming an architect, something that she harbours even today, more than 20 years after she entered the medical field.
While, at first, Lim may not have put much thought about choosing ENT, she is dead serious about it now with many firsts to her credit. She is the first doctor in Asia to perform the Vibrant Soundbridge middle ear implant surgery that allows hearing via normal sound transmission even if all three middle ear bones are absent or diseased. For the past 10 years, she has also been involved in research for treatment of glue ears, a condition when fluid is trapped in the middle ear after recurrent infections, or after colds or flights. Lim also founded the MSc in Audiology programme at NUS more than five years ago.
Currently a Senior Consultant ENT – Head & Neck Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and Farrer Park Medical Centre, she also continues as Adjunct Associate Professor to the School of Medicine at National University Singapore for research and teaching, and is Visiting Consultant to the clinical ENT Department at National University Hospital.
Having graduated from NUS in 1992, and admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1996, she was accredited as a Specialist in Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Medical Council in 2001.
India Se Media met the 49-year-old doctor at her clinic recently, where she shared details about her work and life.
India Se: Tell us a little about yourself – family, childhood and growing up years?
Dr Lynne Lim: My father was in the civil service, and away a lot while my mother was a teacher. I am sandwiched between an older brother and a younger sister. We were middle income and lived in Serangoon Gardens. As a child, I remember borrowing 10 books a week from a corner bookstore there. I read voraciously then; no distractions of the internet and mobile phones.
I remember crying my eyes out at Primary 6 because it was the first time I came in second and not first in school. But it was a good thing, as I quickly realised that it was okay, life goes on just fine.
Many of my close friends were made while I was in Raffles Girls Secondary School and Raffles Junior College, during those heady teenage years. I was serious, but always a bit dreamy,
Laid bare, I am actually a little melancholic and a child at heart. I am at once optimistic and fearless, but also deeply fatalistic and acutely aware of the transience of life. A life in medicine has put all things in perspective for me - so I let go of things easy, do my best, move on and give thanks.
India Se: What prompted you to take up medicine as a career and specialise in ENT?
Dr Lynne Lim: Initially, I wanted to try architecture, but mom said to put medicine down as my first choice, so I went for the medicine interview. There was a 20 per cent quota for females in medical school then.
Medicine is truly the purest form of heart-science-art combined. Others looking in often see only the glamour and the returns, but not the endless sacrifice, the daily rigour and stress, the continual improvements needed, the heavy responsibility and the high risk taken for each surgery.
I went into ENT because I visited one such doctor as a patient. We got talking in the clinic and he told me that I should try out ENT. And so I did. And I have loved it. It has the perfect mix of clinics, surgeries, high technology, good old history-taking, and a complex and challenging head and neck anatomy. It afflicts many. It is a very people profession.
India Se: Could you tell us briefly about the most common ENT problems that afflict people?
Dr Lynne Lim: The common ENT complaints would be nose block/allergy, snoring, ear discomfort, hearing loss and dizziness, head and neck lumps and voice changes. Common causes of nose block include allergy, large nose turbinates or deviated nose bone, blocked sinuses, polyps. Snoring is often due to nose block, large adenoid and tonsils, low-lying medialised tonsillar pillars/uvula, small jaw, prolapsed tongue base and obesity. Ear wax, infections, trauma, tumours, congenital infections/malformations, aging, loud noise exposure contribute to hearing difficulties. Voice changes can be due to abuse of voice, gastric acid reflux, incorrect use, tension, infection, tumors and nerve palsy.
India Se: Do you get to see Indian patients as well?
Dr Lynne Lim: Yes, I do see many Indian patients, from both Singapore and overseas. Indians have high regard for their doctors, and they are very good patients who are careful to do their part to get well.
India Se: You were the first doctor in Asia to perform the Vibrant Soundbridge middle ear implant surgery. Please explain this procedure to our readers.
Dr Lynne Lim: After my return from fellowship in America in 2004, I had the opportunity to head the Hearing and Language Centre at NUH in 2006. I took the opportunity to expand the services and do new types of surgeries in Singapore.
The team introduced the Central Auditory Processing Disorder CAPD service in Singapore. Patients with CAPD may have normal hearing on hearing tests, but the brain does not decode what is heard properly, and so many are misdiagnosed as stupid, inattentive or having poor attitude. In 2005, I had the chance to work with a lovely family, to do the first Singapore bilateral cochlear implant surgeries simultaneously for the then one-year-old baby Talia. Done this way, the child’s speech and language development reaches full potential quickly.
These gave me confidence to perform the first Vibrant Soundbridge VSB Middle Ear Implant surgery in Asia in 2006. The VSB is an implant surgically placed in the middle ear that can allow hearing via normal sound transmission even if all three middle ear bones are absent or diseased. This is possible for both adults and babies.
India Se: You have contributed significantly to the academic world and have also worked towards a fruitful collaboration between industry and academia. Could you share some details?
Dr Lynne Lim: In Singapore, two in five in their 60s and over 50 per cent after 70 years of age have hearing loss. We need more audiologists. To address this gap, I founded the MSc in Audiology programme at NUS more than five years ago.
Currently, I am continuing to work on research I started on 10 years ago. I am working on developing novel solutions for glue ears. Glue ear refers to fluid trapped in the middle ear after recurrent infections, or after colds or flights. Currently, the surgery to insert a grommet tube to treat glue ears requires general anaesthesia (GA), entails significant cost and needs a lot of manpower. With my team of engineer colleagues and research fellows, we are developing CLiKX, a hand-held automated device that will insert the tube in the clinic with the child awake, without general anesthesia and without needing an expensive microscope. I am also working on FiZZ, a bioabsorbable grommet tube that self-destructs after some time, to allow water activities, without the need to remove the tube under GA, and with less infections.
India Se: Tell us a little about your work overseas?
Dr Lynne Lim: I am proud to be an NUS graduate, even though I trained in America from 2001 to 2004. I went there with a one-month-old baby whom I was breastfeeding. So I’d be cradling the infant on one arm and holding my book to study in the other. My husband was very supportive and took care of the baby while I worked.
I was at the Cincinnati Children Medical Centre (CCHMC) and the Cincinnati Hearing Research Foundation in Ohio. CCHMC taught me the importance of dreaming big, and the importance of teamwork. I also did a Master of Public Health degree at the Harvard School of Public Health. Harvard showed beautifully that learning is for life. Harvard taught me the importance of inspirational and generous teachers.
India Se: Tell us a little about your family now – husband, children?
Dr Lynne Lim: My husband is a lawyer currently at his own practice, with a focus on construction law. I got to know him when we were hall mates at Sheares Hall (one of six residential hostels of the NUS) during university days. He is frustratingly “chill” and logical. I could not be half the person I am now without him. My only child is now a teenager, in the first year of the International Baccalaureate programme at St Joseph’s Institution International. She is a lot smarter than me, a good friend and down-to-earth sort of girl.
India Se: What are your other interests apart from work?
Dr Lynne Lim: I have always liked art. Words can really move me, as can songs. I am trying to do some photography and writing in the next five years. In my wildest dream, I think of going to architecture school when my daughter attends university – but I don’t think anyone will let me.
Young technopreneur Lekha Patmanathan is in the business of improving the quality of lives through smart and sustainable operations
One minute she is wearing a glamourous dress, the next she switches to overalls examining cooling systems of buildings. Lekha Patmanathan is a woman on a mission of protecting the environment by helping companies improve energy efficiency. She co-founded Nexergy, a company that not only reduce organisations’ carbon footprints – but also help them operate their business sustainably, save money and gain competitive advantage.
The Malaysian-born entrepreneur graduated in Science from Saint Mary’s University in Canada after which she first worked in a biochemistry lab as a researcher at her university and later in the Organ and Tissue Transplant services division at the Capital District Health Authority hospitals (Halifax, Nova Scotia) before going to pursue an MBA in Sustainability from the University of Wales, Cardiff UK.
After six years in Singapore working in consultancy and energy efficiency, the 35-year-old saw the opportunity for effective, affordable and scalable solutions to address and improve the performance of one of the country’s most energy intensive equipment - cooling and climate control systems.
Here are excerpts of an interview:
India Se: Tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
Lekha Patmanathan: I was born and bred in Kuala Lumpur, the middle child with two brothers. We are second-generation born Malaysians. Our grandparents came from Sri Lanka. My mother was a homemaker and my father a doctor. He ran his own GP clinic and I suppose I get my entrepreneurial streak from him.
My happiest memories are playing with my cousins in our grandparents’ garden. My grandmother had a green thumb. She had a front lawn full of beautiful flowers and a backyard filled with fruit trees – mangos, papayas, bananas, rambutans and coconuts. My love affair with nature started right there.
India Se: What drew you to environmental issues?
Lekha Patmanathan: I always felt in awe of nature, animals and Mother Earth. The world is filled with incredible beauty and brilliance. My first inkling on environmental issues came from watching Captain Planet at a young age and learning of toxic waste being dumped into oceans, factories polluting the skies and rainforests being felled. I remember asking my father if this was just a story in a cartoon. But when he said, No, this actually happens, I knew that I had to do something.
Since then, I have been learning as much as I can and am committed to wanting to leave this world a better place than I found it. As Gandhiji once said - be the change you want to see in this world.
India Se: You have been working in companies helping to improve efficiency and now you have turned an entrepreneur yourself. Tell us a little about nExergy.
Lekha Patmanathan: Being an active environmentalist, I felt the biggest way I can contribute to a cleaner and greener future is to focus my efforts towards addressing climate change. By reducing energy consumption, we produce less greenhouse gases that warm the Earth.
Buildings on average waste 30 per cent of energy due to poor controls and improper maintenance. Nexergy addresses this specific problem using the latest IoT platform, data analytics software and a revolutionary engineering technology from Sweden. We not only reduce organisations’ carbon footprints – we also help them operate their business sustainably, save money and gain a competitive advantage.
India Se: What are some of the challenges that you have had to face since you turned an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
Lekha Patmanathan: It’s been an incredible journey of learning so far. There’s a lot to juggle with everything needing my attention yesterday, or so it seems! I have always been good at prioritisation and time management. I never shy away from a challenge. However, this time I am learning the art of having to say ‘no’ and accepting my limitations rather than stretching them. I want to do it all but there has to be a balance.
India Se: Could you briefly tell us the problems related to cooling and climate control? Is it something that industries or commercial establishments have to be concerned about or should families and homes contribute?
Lekha Patmanathan: Cooling systems are ubiquitous in Singapore, and for all equatorial nations. Seventy per cent of the total electricity consumed in a typical building goes towards the ACMV (air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation) equipment. Once commissioned, these systems are often neglected or poorly serviced, so mechanical issues that arise over time are not diagnosed and addressed. This leads to component failures and leaks in the system that result in increase in energy use and decrease in equipment life expectancy from 25 to 10 years.
Big establishments and businesses have their part to play, but building a culture that preserves our resources starts at home. Energy efficiency can be both a top-down and bottom-up approach. Practising energy conservation at home sets a good example for our children too.
India se: What are some of the ill effects or negative impact of these?
Lekha Patmanathan: ACMV systems that are improperly maintained use more energy to run on a daily basis and often lead to retrofits to replace the chiller or air-conditioning system earlier than expected. Due to lax regulations, refrigerants from the old equipment are being vented into the atmosphere. Some refrigerants have high global warming potential and are known to deplete the ozone layer.
India Se: How would you rate Singapore in terms of energy efficiency and environmental awareness?
Lekha Patmanathan: Singapore is certainly a leader in energy technology and innovation, particularly in R&D of renewable energies. Regulations such as the Energy Conservation Act in 2013 and energy efficiency grants by the National Environment Agency encourage businesses to adopt energy reduction strategies. We also have our own green building code, Green Mark, with an ambitious goal of making 80 per centof Singapore’s building stock ‘greened’ by 2030. As a low-lying island state, Singapore realises its vulnerability to the impact of climate change. I would say the nation’s leaders are proactive in their environmental awareness. In fact, the year 2018 has been designated as the Year of Climate Action.
India Se: What is the vision for your company? Where do you see it in the next five years?
Lekha Patmanathan: I believe in the power of partnership and collaboration. We aim to have a deep interwoven network of energy experts across ASEAN committed to changing the status quo in chiller efficiency. I see nExergy as an industry leader and integrator of energy efficiency technologies for the ASEAN region.
India Se: Tell us a little about your family. How do you juggle everything?
Lekha Patmanathan: My husband and I have been living in Singapore for six years. We are blessed with two boys, Lukesh aged 3.5 years and Nolan aged 1.5 years. I love having a baby and a toddler around the house. The shrieks of laughter and the pitter-patter of little feet can brighten up even the dreariest of days.
I am committed to putting my family first. The perks of being an entrepreneur allow me to be completely flexible with my time. The hours from 4 pm to 8 pm are usually the busiest and most exhausting but also the most joyful and rewarding time for me. I work best at night and often get to play catch-up in the evenings before bed.
India Se: What are your other interests or hobbies?
Lekha Patmanathan: Fitness has always been an important part of my life. Running helps me achieve and maintain mental clarity. Yoga and weight training helps me relax and destress. No matter how busy I am, I squeeze in three to four sessions a week without fail.
I am an active volunteer with a few organisations. Green Drinks Singapore and Climate Conversations promote the environmental movement and spread awareness on sustainability and climate change. I also volunteer at Cycling Without Age where we take seniors and the disabled on trishaw rides so they can experience the wind in their hair.
India Se: How do you internalise the environmental mission?
Lekha Patmanathan: I became a vegetarian at 14 and am now a vegan. I believe a nutritious diet fuels your mind and body for success. We recycle everything possible and try to use fewer plastic bags and other single-use disposable items.
I believe in minimalism and do my best to reduce our household consumption. The same goes for our children. We buy clothes only when needed and toys on special occasions. We prefer to spend our money on experiences that create memories and try to teach our children to value their possessions.