Monday, 28 July 2008

Thein Swee Lay

Today is the birthday of a one-time pen-pal of mine. By one-time, I mean a long time ago. At the risk of giving away a lady’s age, a very long time ago... When I was in my late twenties (and my first marriage) I got rid of my little black book (actually it was blue). But I did retain notes of some of the birthdays in it. And recently I came across those notes. When I began going through them I came across the name Thein Swee Lay. Swee Lay was a 1960s pen-pal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and I recall she sent me some post cards of the beautiful buildings in Kula Lumpur and also some dyed leaf skeletons.
Using the wonders of the Internet I decided to see if I could trace her. Hey presto. She is now Consultant Haematologist at Kings College Hospital, London; Professor of Molecular Haematology and Head of Division of Gene and Cell-based Therapy at Kings College London School of Medicine.

She graduated in medicine from the University of Malaya, Malaysia, in 1976 and then went on to complete her training in haematology in Leeds. Then she went to Hammersmith, the Royal Free and the John Radcliffe, Oxford. She is Associate Editor of the British Journal of Haematology.
A profile of her in asked “What is the most important lesson you have learned in your professional life?” Her answer was “Always listen to your instinct and trust your gut feelings in times of uncertainty.”
She lists her greatest achievement as being involved in DNA fingerprinting with Alec Jeffreys and co-authoring the first DNA fingerprinting papers.
Asked what her most evocative piece of music was she responded Richard Strauss “Four Last Songs” - “All of life summed up in one piece of work.”

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