Gold award for child health care expert

Shoo Kim Lee has been helping improve Chinese medical staff's neonatal skills and knowledge for 22 years.

Shoo Kim Lee, winner of  this year’s Magnolia Gold Award

Shoo Kim Lee has won this year’s Magnolia Gold Award after 22 years promoting maternal and child health care in China.

Born in Malaysia in 1956, Lee grew up in Singapore. His father came from Chaozhou in Guangdong Province while his mother is the third generation of a Chaozhou family in Singapore.

He graduated from the University of Singapore in 1980 with a medical bachelor’s degree and received his PhD in health policy from Harvard University in 1996.

He is the scientific director of the Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

As a world expert in neonatology, he is a visiting or distinguished professor at 32 universities and a senior adviser to the World Health Organization.

He is also a visiting professor at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai and honorary president of its branch in Xiamen in Fujian Province.

Lee came to Shanghai  in 1996 with the Canada-China Child Health Foundation to assist China with developing health care, particularly for children.

The delegation visited children’s hospitals in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Nanjing during the visit.

They chose Shanghai as a base to help China as it had the best hospital.

“When I first came here, we started with doing some lectures, doing some teaching in the neonatal intensive care units in hospitals and conducting some conferences,” said Lee. “But I realized the impact of all those efforts was very small and we needed something that was broader and could have a longer-lasting effect. It was clear that the best way to help was actually to train people because if you train local people, they will train others and those skills will multiply.”

Since 1996, he has been visiting China several times a year and developing many programs.

He said he chose to work with Shanghai as the city was ready to make changes and willing to find the resources to make these changes happen.

He cooperated with the children’s hospital in 2004 in setting up a neonatal and prenatal training program for doctors and nurses.

The program provides medical staff from all over the country with a year's training in Shanghai and then brings them to Canada to train for another year.

Unlike most international training programs, where Chinese participants are observers, the program enables them to have hands-on experience in Canadian hospitals.

So far, it has trained 130 senior medical personnel from China, improving the capacity of Chinese hospitals in reducing baby mortality. About 100 medical experts from overseas hospitals have also visited Shanghai, providing teaching for doctors and nurses.

 Lee has also launched a re-study program in which six doctors have gone overseas again for short-term study to update their knowledge.

Since  2012, Lee has also been improving health care at neonatal intensive care units in China, improving their capacity in saving newborn babies with serious conditions and promoting international cooperation. He has also introduced the idea of family integrated care into such units, which means letting parents look after their babies.

“The best nurse for the baby is the mother and you can teach the mother most things that a nurse can do,” he said.

In cooperation with Lee, the children’s hospital has launched three scientific research programs with the Canadian Neonatal Network set up by Lee, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Mt Sinai Hospital.

In 2014, the Canadian Neonatal Network joined with the Fudan hospital to set up a joint center to promote clinical neonatal research in China.

Between 2014 and 2015, the center organized four rounds of seminars and workshops, training nearly 200 medical workers and improving their clinical research skills.

From 2014 to 2016, the center launched and sponsored 34 clinical research programs in major hospitals in more than 10 Chinese cities.

A Canada-China Advanced Health Research Institute has also been established to carry out innovative research in pediatrics and transfer findings into applications to benefit children.

Lee has also been promoting breast feeding and under the instruction of Lee’s team, the children’s hospital last year set up a breast milk bank for babies in intensive care units, the first of its kind in Shanghai.

By feeding sick newborns breast milk donated by other mothers, the hospital has greatly reduced neonatal infection.

Lee also brought the Larsson Rosenquist Foundation, an independent charitable organization in Switzerland, to Shanghai. The foundation will cooperate with the children’s hospital and another two obstetric and gynecological hospitals in the city to set up a breast milk and breast feeding research center.

The Canadian Neonatal Network has also assisted Shanghai with international academic exchanges.

The network and the children’s hospital have organized six Shanghai Neonatal Forums since 2007, attracting more than 100 experts from other countries, including the US, Canada, the UK and Germany. The biennial event has further expanded Shanghai’s international influence in pediatrics and neonatal medicine.

Lee was granted the Magnolia Silver Award in 2012.

“Shanghai is already the best in China in neonatal medicine and it has the potential to be a world leader in the future,” he said. “I hope it will emerge as one of the top centers in the world, both for child care and also for research and training, so that in the future Shanghai will not send people abroad for training, rather people from other countries will come to Shanghai for training. Other countries will look up to Shanghai for new knowledge and practices.”

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