News: LKCMedicine Assistant Dean named one of 25 kindest leaders in Southeast Asia

LKCMedicine Assistant Dean for Year 5 Associate Professor Tham Kum Ying was today named one of 25 Leading Lights in Southeast Asia, who are recognised for their kindness in leadership. The inaugural edition of the Southeast Asia list recognises leaders who are deeply thoughtful of others and show humanity, generosity and compassion. 

When the call for nominations opened last year, several people, including former LKCMedicine Senior Vice Dean Professor Jenny Higham and LKCMedicine Vice Dean for Education Professor Naomi Low-Beer, were moved to nominate A/Prof Tham. 

Prof Higham, who is now Principal at St George's Medical School, London, said, “It was easy to nominate Kum Ying for this award. She is someone fizzing with energy who combines her dedication to the tasks in hand with consistent kindness to all those around her.”

In her nomination, Prof Higham cited the key attributes that make A/Prof Tham stand out. “She genuinely puts her patients, colleagues and trainees at the centre and goes beyond to ensure the very best for them. She dedicates personal time to overseas community projects, delivering help where it is desperately needed, providing support to medical students alongside her. I am indebted to her personally for her help in my understanding of the organisation and delivery of healthcare and culture in Asia, which was essential for success. She is an exemplar of a hugely inspiring yet very kind leader,” wrote Prof Higham. 

In the eyes of the many colleagues and students who have worked with A/Prof Tham, the consensus is that she is generous with her time and expertise, sincere in her care of others and committed to fostering a spirit of collaboration across age, rank and discipline. She leads by putting her patients, colleagues and trainees at the heart of what she does. 
Tan Tock Seng Hospital Deputy Director of Nursing Ms Lee Leng Noey wrote in her testimonial supporting A/Prof Tham’s nomination that “Dr Tham has always been generous with time and expertise.”
“She is a staunch advocate for nurses. In all these years, she has never turned down nurses’ requests for her help, be it to teach or run programmes to support nurses’ learning or consultation for expert advice,” added Ms Lee, who has known A/Prof Tham for more than 20 years. 
For example, A/Prof Tham was instrumental in creating an advanced resuscitation training programme for nurses 10 years ago. Previously such training was only available to doctors. Since then, more than 1,000 nurses have undergone the training.

It is not just nursing colleagues who hold A/Prof Tham in high regard. Dr Daniel Quek, now an emergency medicine consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, recalled how the assertive senior physician left a deep impression when he was a newly minted medical officer.

“At her core, she is a lady of grace who has the deepest respect for her patients, students, colleagues and friends. She always displayed exemplary bedside manners, and often went out of her way to explore the social issues that contributed to the patients’ presentation. I readily saw her as a role model. During that posting, she took a keen interest in the career plans of my peers and me, which had a profound impact on many of our lives. It was during that posting that I made up my mind to be an emergency physician,” said Dr Quek.

Since then, Dr Quek has been inspired by A/Prof Tham’s rise through the ranks as an educator, adding that she is not one who lets her actions be confined by stereotypes. Instead, A/Prof Tham champions a vision where everyone in the healthcare team is empowered to the best of their abilities. At the national level, her efforts have contributed to the formation of the National Collaborative Prescribing Programme that allows trained pharmacists and nurses to prescribe selected medications in their field of practice. 

“She is an inspiration to us all and proof that there is no limit to what we can all achieve as long as we have the right belief, convictions and choose to live for others,” he said.  

Students, too, turn to her as their role model. In the past, A/Prof Tham has received numerous education awards, including the Nanyang Education Award. She was recognised for her mentorship by Class of 2018 Graduate Dr Ang Jia Wei, who received the prestigious Koh Boon Hwee Scholar’s Award. The award recognises top students who, in turn, pay tribute to two mentors who have had a significant impact on them. 
LKCMedicine Class of 2021 student Goh Xin Rong, who also supported A/Prof Tham’s nomination, recalled A/Prof Tham’s respectful and professional approach in providing healthcare expertise during a medical aid trip to a community clinic at the Thai-Myanmar border. 

“Prof Tham serves as my guiding lighthouse. She is a woman overflowing with knowledge, but incredibly humble,” said Xin Rong. 

“On the mission trip, I saw how she exercised her clinical acumen while maintaining a professional balance as an advisor to local medics, without crossing the delicate line of a ‘foreign intruder.’ This awarded her a huge amount of respect not just from the local medics, but from all members of the team,” added Xin Rong.  
The list of Kindness & Leadership 25 Leading Lights, which was compiled by the UK-based Women of the Future Programme, was published in today’s Financial Times. In addition to A/Prof Tham, Facebook Global Business Group Vice President for APAC Karen Teo, Blu Ink Media CEO Azliza Ahmad Tajuddin and Osel Group Chief Clinical & Innovative Scientist Kris Ke-Shyang See were recognised for their kindness in leadership.
Founder of the Kindness & Leadership 25 Leading Lights Pinky Lilani outlined the initiative’s mission, saying, “By placing a spotlight on phenomenal leaders throughout the region who are using the power of kindness to make a massive impact in business and to effect positive change, we collectively place kindness at the centre of the leadership debate. Together, we encourage the leaders of today and tomorrow – no matter their role or background – to #leadwithkindness.”
On making the list, A/Prof Tham said, “I was surprised by the nomination and even more surprised by being included in the list.”