When you first meet Dr Lau Chee Chong of the Ear Nose & Throat Centre CC Lau at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, you are immediately struck by his warm smile, quiet humour and by the enthusiasm and passion he has for all aspects of his life.
Dr Lau has enjoyed two decades of what he calls “the most enjoyable and interesting ENT private practice imaginable” and
he still loves it. He is a surgeon of extensive experience, having worked at the Great Ormond Street Hospital and the
Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital in London and the City Hospital in Edinburgh. He has also lectured and taught
other doctors in conferences and workshops in Singapore and overseas, and has served on boards and panels of various
embassies, medical societies and the Subordinate Courts.
One might imagine that such a man would not have the energy or passion to take on another role.
But when he exchanges the surgical mask for a fencing mask, Dr Lau transforms into one of Singapore’s most successful
national veteran (over 40) fencers. His primary weapon is the sabre, which allows you to slash as well as thrust with
the tip. Sabre fencing is also well known for its speed, which forces you to think and react in a split-second. “It’s
like a giant game of chess, but you have to make your reply moves immediately. Many sabre matches are over in a few minutes.”
One of the successes nearest to Dr Lau’s heart is an individual bronze medal for Men’s Sabre in the 2012 Commonwealth
Veteran Fencing Championships in Singapore. “It’s more exciting to be fencing on home ground,” he says. Dr Lau went on
to anchor the Singapore Men’s Sabre team to a bronze medal in the team event, with a win over Australia. Dr Lau was also
the Individual Sabre Champion at the Taipei Open Masters 2012.
He enjoys a wide variety of interests, including cooking, shooting, scuba-diving, table tennis, bonsai plants and collecting
fish, parrots, artwork and antiques – all of which his wife, Cynthia, also enjoys (or at least tries to keep up with!).
Of all these interests, fencing has a special place in his heart as it is an activity he enjoys with their two daughters,
Ysien and Ywen, both of whom have worn Singapore national team colours since they were 12. The Laus are immensely proud
of their “wonderful, wonderful daughters”. As Dr Lau says, watching your children battle and triumph is even better than
Younger daughter Ywen is a sabreur like her father. At 15, she was the youngest athlete in fencing in the 2015 SEA
Games in Singapore, where she won an individual bronze medal in Women’s Sabre and then anchored her team to a bronze
medal in the team event. She is Singapore’s youngest-ever individual SEA Games fencing medallist. She was also the youngest
athlete in fencing at the Asian Games last year (when she was only 14). With all her fencing commitments, she missed
almost 50 per cent of school in Grade 9, but still achieved extremely good results. “She is always so disciplined and
focused on the job at hand, be it fencing or schoolwork,” says the proud father.
Seventeen-year-old Ysien has fenced foil for Singapore at many major championships, including the Asian Youth Games. She
faced a hard choice this year. Says Dr Lau: “This was an important fencing year with SEA Games being held in Singapore, but
Ysien was in Grade 11 at school, the first year of the IB programme and she’s a very good student. So she chose to focus
on her studies. She said she could fence for decades (“Look at Papa!” she said) but she could only do her IB once. A hard
decision, but learning to prioritise the demands in your life is a crucial lesson and we’re grateful that fencing has already
taught it to her at this young age.” However, Ysien did make time for the 2015 Asian Junior (u-20) Championships in Abu Dhabi
in April, where she won the individual bronze in Women’s Foil, Singapore’s only individual medal in that championship.
From Sabre to Scalpel
Back at his day job, Dr Lau, a Ear, Nose & Throat, Head & Neck Surgeon revels in a field of medicine that has captivated him since his medical school days. He is fascinated by the delicate and intricate architecture of the ears and head and finds surgery riveting because of the very fine and detailed skills required. ENT surgery is particularly satisfying, Dr Lau says, as the results and benefits of these operations are evident soon after the surgery, so he can have the pleasure of quickly seeing his patients and their families happy.
Dr Lau also points out that the field of ENT has been continually evolving and that new techniques and technology have given him the tools to treat his patients even more effectively, quickly and safely. Many investigations and procedures that would have required surgery in previous years can now be done in the convenience and comfort of his clinic.
Dubbing himself a “student for life”, Dr Lau continues to read extensively and make time for conferences and workshops to enrich his ENT knowledge and stay abreast of advances in the field. He is also impressed by the new generation of chemotherapy and radiotherapy which are giving ENT patients fewer side-effects and better cure rates than in the past. “In many cases,” says Dr Lau, “it is possible to avoid performing surgery altogether.”
To remind himself how far medicine has progressed since he started practising at age 25, Dr Lau has a cabinet which houses his collection of medical antiques, gathered from all over the world and which include early hearing aids and nasal vaporizers. Dr Lau’s patients can often be found studying the contents of the cabinet with fascination… “and probably gratitude that these items are no longer in use!” laughs Dr Lau.
Dr Lau has patients of all ages, from all over the world and all walks of life. This, he feels, is one of the best things about private practice – the opportunity to meet and help so many different and interesting people. Dr Lau says: “In private practice, I have an opportunity to see the whole range of ENT problems and to tailor treatments and solutions for each individual patient. So every day, my job is endlessly interesting and inspiring. I’m a fortunate man.“