Reflections on My Lifetime Achievement Award

Clin A/Prof Shantha Amrith, Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist, International Eye Cataract Retina Centre

I was humbled and surprised when I received an e-mail from the Health and Vision Awards Committee that I have been chosen for the Lifetime Achievement Award 2018. I received the award from Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and Environment & Water Resources, during the launch of Awareness of Macular Disease Week 2018 at Kampong Admiralty on 13 October 2018.

The Eye and Vision Health Awards were created to recognise individuals and organisations that have made significant and far-reaching contributions in the area of eye and vision health which have benefited Singapore. The awards were first given out in 2004.

On reflection, the first thing that came to my mind was my role as a teacher for the past 33 years in training doctors to become ophthalmologists. Many such ophthalmology Residents have become authorities on the management of different eye conditions and are contributing actively to our community. There were also many Fellows in Oculoplastic and Reconstructive Surgery from Singapore and around the region who trained with my colleagues and I, and are now serving their fellow citizens in their respective countries and making a difference. I am really proud of them all.

I was involved in a number of educational missions to Myanmar in 2005 to 2006. The teaching of local ophthalmologists also included skills transfer by way of surgical demonstration.

I also recalled the days when I used to run a charity clinic at Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre in Moulmein Road. The patients who visited the clinic were unable to seek medical help elsewhere because of their economic situation or did not know where to go for help. They were given free medication for their systemic conditions and I was there to screen the eyes, especially those who had diabetes.

In addition, I have participated in many eye screening exercises over my years of practice in Singapore. With increasing longevity, there are more seniors and hence more age-related eye diseases. Diabetes has been identified as one of the major health issues by the Singapore Government and it needs a lot of resources to manage the problem. We can expect more age-related conditions such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. We need more people to come forward to serve the disadvantaged as well as to shape the future of healthcare in our country through preventive community eye screening. We also need more ophthalmologists to be teachers to train a new generation of excellent eye doctors.

I am very thankful for the recognition of my humble efforts and will continue the mission to the best of my ability.