Dr Candice Leong, Consultant, Department of Radiology, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore

By Sean Nolan

Women in GovTech Special Report 2021.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens' lives? Tell us about your role or organisation. 

I am a consultant with the department of radiology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), co-lead of the TTSH 3D printing workgroup and member of the 3D printing steering committee TTSH. These roles, although separate, but are complementary.

3D printing enables personalised medical solutions that have proven to improve healthcare outcomes. It is no wonder that additive manufacturing has been revolutionising healthcare, with many hospitals and clinicians choosing to adopt the technology.

As one of the key team members of the 3D printing workgroup, which comprises multidisciplinary specialist clinicians, allied healthcare professionals, biomedical engineers and administrators, I lead the team in the expansion and development of 3D printed solutions in clinical applications that improve the overall quality of clinical care for our patients. We want to achieve this in three domains: 3D models for education (targeting patients, surgeons and medical students), 3D models for pre-surgical planning and intra-operative surgical guides. The benefits of which are numerous, including reducing intra-operative time, reducing intra-operative blood loss, lowering hospital cost, improving surgeon training, and enhancing doctor-patient communication.

Apart from being a key diagnostic tool in medical practice, Radiology forms the basis of medical 3D printing. My training as a specialist radiologist is vital in ensuring anatomically accurate cross-sectional imaging segmentation of normal structures and abnormal pathologies. My radiology role in the workgroup mainly oversees the diagnostic imaging capabilities required to produce accurate and high-quality images for the 3D printing process.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

With greater uptake of the 3D printing technology in the local healthcare community, there was a need to expand the supporting infrastructure, develop new clinical applications and create a centralised framework that will reduce overlap and ensure better management of resources.

Months of data collection from proof-of-concept trials and numerous discussions with various stakeholders culminated in setting up an in-hospital 3D printing centre in November. My workgroup was also awarded a digital prototyping budget grant to run a pilot project from the 3D printing centre over the next 12 months. These were the highlights for my team and I this year. It was an exciting but challenging undertaking as there had been no precedence. We had to establish our own workflows processes and are still currently in the process of fine-tuning them.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021? 

The journey of adopting and implementing innovations and understanding stakeholder groups' needs and expectations is crucial. With patients at the forefront, other stakeholders such as physicians, hospital administration, regulatory agencies and technology companies are also major considerations. Hence the exchange of knowledge, collaboration and open communication form the basis of a strong partnership for success.

What's a tool or technique you're excited to explore in 2022?

I would like to explore the use of multi-material and multicolour material printing to achieve more precise and life-like 3D anatomical models that can replicate soft tissues in the human body. It can aid in enhancing the haptic perception and understanding of both the physician or surgeon and the patient and develop simulation models for training.

What are your priorities for 2022?

My priorities for 2022 are to establish processes for a quality management system in the 3D printing centre and ensure the deliverables for a clinical proof-of-value pilot project are met over the course of 1 year.

What advice would you give to women who want to start a career in Govtech?

Don’t be intimidated by people who have more experience but collaborate to learn more about what interests you. Force yourself outside of your comfort zone to collect new experiences and establish relationships with people from various backgrounds and organisations.

What gets you up in the morning?

My children, literally, but also because I love what I do. As a healthcare professional in a large organisation, I am empowered to harness organisational capabilities and infrastructure to contribute to an innovation ecosystem to deliver value-driven and better healthcare to the community that I serve. Seeing the benefits that innovation can bring to patients’ lives gives meaning to my work.