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Q&A with Chun Yuan Khoo


Chun Yuan Khoo, MBBS (Singapore), MMed (Int Med), MRCP (UK), is a heart failure cardiologist from Singapore, with clinical interests in cardiac amyloidosis, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. In layperson’s terms, Dr. Khoo specializes in treating and caring for patients with thick and stiff hearts due to various reasons. She is working with Dr. Sanjiv Shah, MD, Director of I.AIM’s Center for Deep Phenotyping & Precision Therapeutics.

What features of the fellowship appealed to you?
The Northwestern Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction (HFpEF) and Cardiomyopathy program is helmed by an excellent all rounded multidisciplinary team – strong in clinical management, research, and Artificial Intelligence. It is thus with this intent to learn that I come from Singapore to understand better the system setup and gain further clinical expertise in the management of these conditions. This fellowship provides me with a broad perspective of medicine – not only in terms of the cases I see, but also challenges me to develop other aspects of my career – academics, research, and education. 

Do you have plans for post fellowship?
Post Northwestern fellowship, I hope to apply the knowledge and inspiration that I have acquired to drive the HFpEF/infiltrative heart disease and cardiomyopathy clinical service in my centre in Singapore. I hope to build an all rounded and multidisciplinary team with a strong foundation in clinical medicine that is forward-looking in research and AI – similar to what I have witnessed here.

What projects are you currently interested in?
I am interested in projects and clinical research involving patients with cardiac amyloidosis. Initially thought to be an “incurable disease” – now disease-specific treatments are giving hope to patients and their families.  Also, clinical informatics will likely play an increasingly important role in the field of medicine, both in terms of disease prediction and assisting with personalized medicine. In fact, it has come into our everyday life – a good example would be our wearable smart watches which continually monitor and provides us with health signals. It is crucial we harness and use this technology wisely to improve patient care.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
Perhaps not about me – but about where I come from – Singapore. We are a small, multiracial island country, where it is summer all year round. English is our first/working language although most of us can speak at least 2-3 languages including English. For example, I speak English, Mandarin, and Hokkien (a Chinese dialect). We are also secretly proud of a local slang of English that has come about in Singapore over the years – affectionately termed “Singlish”. In fact, we are thus able to recognize fellow Singaporeans when we hear “Singlish” spoken – no matter what part of the world we may be in.

What are you learning that's made a difference for you?
I have just been in Northwestern for a month - the synergy and good work that can come from a dynamic and diverse team is indeed amazing. I am also getting to know a different health system setup, which in turn broadens my perspective.

What has been your greatest challenge?
A most recent challenge that I can think of would leaving my comfort zone (in Singapore) and “starting over” in another country/hospital, albeit only for a year. I guess it is harder to do so at an “older” age where things have become comfortable, stable, and routine. This challenge, however, has turned out to be a gift. Besides invaluable learning opportunities, I have discovered in myself skillsets that I never knew I had, and a chance to meet an amazing mentor as well as wonderful new friends and colleagues.

What advice would you give to a student wanting to get into this field of study?
The practice of medicine is a lifelong endeavor. Days (and nights) can be tough. Come into medicine with the correct mindset (for patients), an open heart, an inquisitive mind and a willingness to work hard.