When CGH’s Hepatobiliary Service came into existence 18 months ago,
Dr Salleh Bin Ibrahim became its director.
The Consultant Surgeon, who has been with the hospital for nine years, explains that the service was set up to align the Gastroenterology Department in dealing with liver, pancreas and biliary diseases.
“These are not common diseases in Singapore but they have a high risk of mortality, so patients need complete care,” he says.
“Before the service was set up, patients would be seen by a hepatologist for evaluation and then seen by me for evaluation, with little communication between us. Now, we discuss each patient’s case and have a one-stop evaluation centre for patients,” he adds.
The other reason for the service having its own identity is so that skills and services can be promoted to neighbouring countries.
“All the hospitals have hepatobiliary (HPB) specialists, so there are more than enough of us to handle all the cases in Singapore. That is why we can afford to look overseas,” he says.
Aside from himself, there is another associate consultant, two registrars and an HPB nurse in his team. On the gastroenterology side, there are two hepatologists and one endoscopist.
“That makes up the whole HPB team,” he says, “so the next stage is to treat the cases and improve results in general.”
Early in his career, he went to Taiwan for training. He says of his time there: “I got to practice a lot because there were a tremendous amount of cases. They treat 1,200 cases of liver cancer a year there.”
Singapore is seeing a decrease in liver cancer because of the hepatitis B vaccination, and that is a very good thing, says Dr Salleh.
And it’s this relative lack of cases in Singapore that gives him his greatest challenge in heading the Hepatobiliary Service.
“Because cases are rare here, the challenge is to be constantly good and yet be constantly proficient,” he says. “ I routinely take a couple of days to visit the regional countries to treat cases, so I balance heading the service and training for myself.”
As for his plans for the service, he says that the first step is to enhance their laparoscopic (minimally invasive) abilities in procedures such as liver resection and gallbladder surgery.
His vision is to develop a comprehensive treatment centre: “One of the models I would like to follow is the Tokyo University model. It’s the top centre in the Asia Pacific region and they receive referrals for very difficult cases. They do everything.”
When Dr Salleh is not taking care of patients at CGH, he will be running a free clinic at his local mosque, or sitting on one of many nursing home boards.
For unwinding, the 38-year-old who is getting married at the end of the year enjoys watching movies. He confesses to owning thousands of DVDs and feels that comedy films are the perfect antidotes to a stressful day.