As the director of the Singapore Health Services’s artificial intelligence department, Daniel Ting believes that the future of medicine is with technology that drastically improves patient care. Using artificial intelligence (A.I.) and deep learning, routine ocular procedures like eye scans are exponentially enhanced; along with the adoption of blockchain in Ting’s practice that safeguard the privacy of patients, he constantly shares his expertise on various international committees with his latest imaging algorithm being licensed to more than 20 countries.
Tatler Singapore finds out, over a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, just how important disruption is when it comes to the medicines of tomorrow.
How important is tradition to you?
Daniel Ting (DT): It’s incredibly personal for me. Tradition helps shape the culture and identity of people and society. It defines our past, present and future. With tradition, we can have a sense of belonging with a group of people that share our core values, morals and ethics. With these values, like-minded people work better together, they are kinder and more helpful. Sometimes, tradition can also give you inner peace and self-acceptance.
I also enjoy a lot of Chinese teachings and history. Chinese New Year is my favourite holiday as I get to experience the thrill of firecrackers and red packets with family and friends all dressed up. These features define some of the Chinese tradition that I am extremely proud of.
How do you define success?
DT: Success, to me, is always making a difference in other people’s lives. At work, I wear several hats. Clinically, I am a retinal surgeon who operates on complex cataract and retina patients. I still remember operating on an elderly patient with extremely dense cataract. She told me that the next day after her surgery, for the first time in three years, she was watching the telly. So, this to me, is a success—restoring one’s sight and allowing them to increase the quality of their life.
Innovation-wise, I am currently driving many A.I. innovation projects at the Singapore National Eye Centre and SingHealth. In SingHealth, we have about 30,000 staff, and also serve about 50 to 60 per cent of the Singaporean population. To date, we have developed quite a few A.I. systems to detect the major blinding conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma suspect, age-related macular degeneration and myopic macular degeneration that account for a billion of the population worldwide. This is a Singapore-grown A.I. technology that could potentially change the lives of many patients by helping them to see better. This, to me, is another form of success: Harnessing the power of A.I. to improve someone’s vision.
At home, I have a duty to play as husband and father. My wife, Celene, is an obstetric and gynaecological specialist at the KKH hospital. We have a five year-old son, Aiden, who is now in K1, and I also have a second one in tow who is due in two months. Both my wife and I have incredibly busy medical routines, but we will always make sure that we spend enough time with Aiden on the weekdays and weekends. Our benchmarks for success for our sons will be to see them grow to become people who are kind, hardworking and passionate that contribute back to the society when they are older.