Walking past Dr Lee Choi Kheong on the street, you might gather from his laughter lines, philosophical forehead wrinkles and smart, retro-tinged dressing that he’s a jovial, thinking man whose love for the 1980s is still very much evident. Behind those orange-tinted glasses is a nurturer’s worldview that has been influenced by those who have come far and wide to seek him, as well as an idealism that pushes for constant improvisation. This doc’s sailing forward, not back.
The year was 1975, and young Dr Lee – he is coy about disclosing his present age – had decided he was going to specialise in maritime medicine practice. ‘When I first passed out, I was full of knowledge. I felt a bit disappointed when I joined the Shenton Medical Group [because] when locals came to see the doctors, it would be a common cough and cold,’ Dr Lee says of his early experience. He was looking for a bigger challenge.
‘The seafarers were a group of people that no one wanted to take care of. [They were] troublesome and had diagnostic problems, and serious conditions like severe burns that had to be treated in only a few hours when they were at the port,’ he reveals. These are men who were out at sea most of the time, and the captain wouldn’t allow them to dock to see a doctor just for a common cold. ‘[Their conditions] kept me on my toes. I could not make the wrong diagnosis because the seafarer will die before he gets to another port,’ he confides. For almost two decades this manager, later assistant managing director, of the Maritime Medical Centre took care of these men-away-from- home. He still actively supervises doctors and co-manages patients, but his real ambition has always been to delve into wellness and aesthetics.
‘[Aesthetics] is a level above sickness; sickness is essential to be treated, and if managed properly, we must go up. That is where the concept of wellness comes in.’ Dr Lee further explains that the concept is not about being vain, ‘but to be able to face people with confidence.’ He has been practising aesthetics officially for eight months, but don’t let the short time-frame discount the skills of this doctor.
‘My experience of treating sickness first then aesthetics is very real,’ Dr Lee discloses. ‘I’ve seen severe burns from the seafarers who work in the engine room – sometimes they get burnt by the boiling oil.’ Taking care of these severe burns helps him understand how the skin can repair itself. ‘I know very well the difference between second- and third-degree burns, and I know how to treat them.’ Using modules such as these, machines of a similar calibre to those of other aesthetic doctors, and accessible commercial products, he endeavours to make others happy.
‘I am not trying to make money. I want to allow others to understand they have access to such treatments – [it’s] not just for the rich and famous,’ he declares. His background in the high-pressured environs of maritime medicine has resulted in his uncommon treatment policy: ‘no pain, no downtime and reasonable prices’. We can attest to the latter two from first-hand experience, but the pain, however mild, is still present. No discomfort, little gain of course, but Dr Lee has only the best intentions. ‘I won’t do anything that I have not been trained to do,’ he assures me, and you’d be hard pressed not to believe him – he is constantly upgrading himself and has a wall of accreditations, most obtained in the last year, to back that claim up.
Ultimately, Dr Lee wants his patients to experience wellness. Take his existing sea-legged clients for example: ‘The first thing every seafarer would want to do [when they dock] is to seek peace and comfort,’ he reveals. ‘[But] they are always misunderstood as seeking sex, so most of the time they’re directed to the wrong joint! They should have a clean place to seek treatment for muscle aches and mental fatigue,’ he says. Both are conditions he also treats, and this is where Dr Lee’s four-room, modern, painstakingly self-decorated clinic comes in. ‘My clients can stay here for as long as they want after their treatments. This can be their home away from home.’
Maritime Medical Centre, #02-05 Maritime House, 120 Cantonment Rd (6225 2771, maritimemedicalcentre.com). Treatments from $120, packages from $450.