The Pro

Paediatric consultant Yvonne Lim: I'm a mum with a village full of children

Dr Yvonne Lim, a mother of three, does not want her patients to stop aiming for the stars because of their chronic conditions. […]
Dr Yvonne Lim, a mother of three, does not want her patients to stop aiming for the stars because of their chronic conditions. […]ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Paediatric consultant loves working with children and treats them like her own

Q I specialise in paediatric endocrinology because...

A I find this field fascinating. A lot of emphasis is placed on clinical judgment as there are few procedures to rely on.

Paediatric endocrinology deals with medical conditions that affect the glands, such as the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands, as well as the pancreas. We diagnose, treat and manage hormonal disorders, many of which are rare. There is always so much to learn.

Q It all started when...

A Associate Professor Loke Kah Yin, a respected paediatrician who specialises in endocrinology, invited me to join his division. I was a paediatric trainee then and I have never looked back since.

Prof Loke is currently head of paediatric endocrinology at NUH.

Q I come across all types of patients from...

It breaks my heart when... families disregard obesity or do not view childhood diabetes as a serious medical condition. Although the child  may look well now, the biggest concern is that  the complications will slowly develop over  the next decade or so.

A Those who are too short, too tall, too heavy or too light, to those who have early or late puberty. I also manage other conditions such as childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, thyroid problems and bone disorders.

  • Bio Box

  • DR YVONNE LIM

    Age: 35

    Occupation: Consultant, division of paediatric endocrinology, National University Hospital (NUH)

    Dr Lim's childhood ambition was to be a doctor, so that she could make a difference to other people's lives.

    When she was in secondary school, she knew that she wanted to specialise in paediatrics. "I love children and I can relate very well to them," she said.

    She completed her advanced specialist training at NUH and went for further training at the Montreal Children's Hospital in Canada, where she focused on insulin technologies and diabetes care in children.

    At NUH, she also runs the monthly multidisciplinary paediatric weight-management clinic, called the Youth Lifestyle Change Clinic.

    She and her husband, a 35-year-old neurologist, have three children aged two, four and seven.

Q Childhood obesity and diabetes are complex medical conditions...

A The management involves not only the science of the medical conditions, but also the psychosocial factors that can have such a great impact on the health outcome of the children.

For example, weight management in a child requires good family support and encouragement, and it also depends on how motivated the family and child are.

This is why I will spend time to get to know the family better so that I will know how to guide them.

Q An important aspect of looking after these children is...

A That I also take care of their mental well-being. They can suffer from depression, low self-esteem and anxiety, or develop burnout when managing their diabetes mellitus or weight.

This can lead to poor control of diabetes and a poor outcome in weight management.

It is important for the family and child to come together and see me and my team, so that we can work jointly towards our goal.

I do not want my patients to stop aiming for the stars just because of their chronic conditions.

If diabetes and obesity are well controlled, they can have a normal childhood like everyone else.

Q If I were to give an analogy for what I do, I'd be...

A A mother with many children, as many as a village full of them.

I treat all my patients like they are my own children. I will give them the best management as I would for my children.

In the past, my three children would ask me why I had to go to work. I would tell them that I had to go and look after the children in the hospital.

They understand the importance of my job, so now they only ask me to return home earlier.

Q A typical day for me would be...

A One that starts at 5.30am. I get my three kids in the car by 6.30am and take them to their respective schools, before I go to NUH at around 7.40am.

My day is spent in the wards, at the clinic or teaching students.

For half the week, I will be in the laboratory studying the use of bioengineered probiotics to treat various diseases, such as obesity and diabetes.

I try to be home by 7.30pm to pack my children's schoolbags with them and spend some time together.

Q One little-known fact about paediatric endocrinology is...

A We see children with obesity developing complications like high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver, obstructive sleep apnoea and high cholesterol levels. They can be as young as below 10.

Q Patients who get my goat are...

A These children will never get my goat. As for the small number of parents who behave unreasonably or irresponsibly, I always try to understand things from their point of view.

Q Things that put a smile on my face are...

A Motivated children and their family members, who are willing to make the effort to change their lifestyles to fight obesity and diabetes.

I'm happy when a child is successful in decreasing his body mass index (BMI) or when his diabetes is brought under control.

Q It breaks my heart when...

A Families disregard obesity or do not view childhood diabetes as a serious medical condition.

Although the child may look well now, the biggest concern is that the complications will slowly develop over the next decade or so.

Q I wouldn't trade places for the world because...

A I love my job and I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

Q My best tip to parents...

A Is that they must be good role models as their children will mirror them.

To get your child to establish a healthy routine, the first step is to ensure that you yourself lead a healthy lifestyle.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'I'm a mum with a village full of children'. Print Edition | Subscribe