Specialist Dental Group recently marked its 31st anniversary as a clinic in December 2010. Formerly known as Henry Lee Dental Surgery, the clinic was founded in 1979 by Dr Henry Lee, a well respected oral surgeon. Read on below to find out about the history of Specialist Dental Group and the significant events that have shaped our identity in providing quality dental treatments through different generations.
The Establishment of the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
The Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and the Mount Elizabeth Hospital have an excellent reputation throughout the region as the premier private healthcare provider in Singapore. Henry Lee Dental Surgery (HLDS) was the second clinic at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre when it opened in late November, 1979.
Back in the late 1970s, there were only two private hospitals in Singapore – Mount Alvernia Hospital and Gleneagles Hospital, both of which did not have sufficient operating theatres for the growing number of surgeons in private practice. Private medical specialists were scattered all over the neighbouring Tanglin/Orchard Road area, making coordination between different specialists and patients more challenging.
Businessmen from other countries who travelled to Singapore for work took the opportunity to have their medical check-ups at one or more of the private clinics whenever they were in the country. However it was difficult to travel from their hotels to multiple locations for different treatment needs. They needed a hospital that was located close to their hotels which could cater to all their healthcare needs.
One of these businessmen then came up with the idea of opening a private hospital on Orchard Road to accommodate the growing demand for another private facility. Study trips by a few pioneering doctors were made to come up with best practices for the model of a private hospital with a medical centre. The plan was to gather all the specialists in one place with a medical centre for outpatient care.
The Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Medical Centre was opened along Orchard Road in 1979. Today the hospital is situated just behind the Paragon Shopping Centre and Lucky Plaza along the famous Orchard Road shopping strip. With easy access to world class hotels, shopping, dining and transportation, it is no wonder that over 30 years later, the Mount Elizabeth Hospital and Medical Centre are still well-known as the place to go for private first class specialist healthcare.
About Dr Henry Lee
Dr Henry Lee Thian-Lin was born in Malaysia and graduated with a Bachelor in Dental Surgery (BDS) from the University of Singapore (later known as the National University of Singapore) in 1967. He then served as a lecturer at the Faculty of Dentistry of the National University of Singapore for several years. On being awarded a scholarship, he furthered his specialist training in oral surgery at the Eastman Dental Institute (University of London) and attained Fellowships from both the Royal Colleges of Glasgow and London. After graduating in 1972, Dr Lee returned to Singapore where he continued to serve as a lecturer at his alma mater from 1972 to 1973. Later that year, he joined a private dental practice, Robertson, Choo, Oehlers, Lee & Lai, for four years. Thereafter, he moved on to work with Dr Ronald Sherman at his long established practice, “Sherman & Paterson”.
Henry Lee Dental Surgery
Dr. Henry Lee was among the first group of doctors/specialists invited to purchase a unit at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. His capable wife, Jenny, helped to design the clinic and Henry Lee Dental Surgery opened its doors in December 1979 with one dentist, two nurses and three treatment rooms.
A dental laboratory was also opened at the same time, located around the corner of the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre at 8 Nutmeg Road with two dental technicians. Early blueprint of the clinic were done by hand because computers were not yet widely used.
In 1981, HLDS moved to bigger premises on the fourth floor of Mt. Elizabeth Medical Centre (Unit #04-09 and #04-10). The clinic, by then, had grown to several dentists with training in different specialty areas of dentistry. The dental laboratory also moved to the 4th floor of the Medical Centre to improve efficiency.
In 1984, Dr Henry Lee first travelled to the United States to attend lectures on Dental Implants and then organized two “hands-on cum live surgery” conferences at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital. The same year, Dr Henry Lee made dental history in Singapore when he placed the first titanium implants to replace a patient’s missing teeth. Some of these pioneers remain our loyal patients to this day.
Dr. Henry Lee was inducted as an “Active Member of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry” after passing their rigorous exams in 1986. Later that year, he conducted a “live surgery” that was filmed and screened to a full house of attendees comprising of local dentists and specialists.
He was well known for his fast and precise dental procedures, and patients from Indonesia and Malaysia would fly over to Singapore to see him for dental treatment. Dr Lee also inspired his two children, Helena and Joseph, who later went on to become dental specialists (periodontist and prosthodontist respectively).
The Next Generation
In 1993, Dr. Helena Lee, daughter of Dr Henry Lee, graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the National University of Singapore. She went on to Eastman Dental Institute in London and was trained as a periodontist. She returned after graduation in 1995 to join HLDS and has worked at the clinic ever since. Her brother, Dr Joseph Lee, who received dental training in Adelaide, Australia and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK was also a member of the HLDS team from 1996.
1995 was a year of consolidation – Dr Henry Lee decided that it would be best to run the clinic at its original location on the 8th floor of the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre rather than from the bigger fourth floor units. From 1996-1997, Dr Henry Lee practiced with his son, Dr Joseph Lee and daughter, Dr Helena Lee, until his passing in 1997.
Dr Helena Lee then took over the running of HLDS from 1997 to 2004, when the management and operations of the clinic were transferred to Dr Neo Tee Khin and Dr Ansgar Cheng, two dental specialists trained in prosthodontics at Northwestern University, USA. Drs Neo and Cheng met during a student exchange program 20 years earlier when they were dental students in Singapore and Hong Kong respectively.
A New Name but the Tradition Lives On
The Ministry of Health, Singapore established a register of dental specialists in 2008. Henry Lee Dental Surgery was renamed Specialist Dental Group (SDG) in 2008 to better reflect the breadth and depth of the clinical team. Between 2004 to 2008, the clinic had expanded from three specialists to a total of seven specialists covering the specialty areas of prosthodontics, periodontics, oral surgery and orthodontics. A second clinic was opened on the same floor (unit #08-08) in July 2008.
In 2009, to commemorate the clinic’s 30th anniversary, Specialist Dental Group organized a major dental seminar for the public together with Channel NewsAsia. The event received wide coverage and about 600 people spent an afternoon with the SDG team to learn about the latest dental innovations.
The clinic’s logo was also updated to the current design. In 2009, SDG integrated digital x-rays and a 3-dimensional Computer Tomography scanner onsite, to provide high quality (and quicker) service for patients.
In 2010, SDG became a prestigious Diamond Partner of Nobel Biocare, the world leader in innovative restorative and esthetic implant and dental solutions. This status is given to clinics which perform a high volume of successful implant cases. There are very few Nobel Biocare Diamond Partner clinics in Singapore. The same year, SDG was honoured to be one of three finalists in the “Best Healthcare Experience” category of the 2010 Singapore Experience Awards.
In 2011, Dr Helena Lee established the Henry Lee T L Medal & Prize in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Dentistry to honor Dr Henry Lee. The gold medal and prize will be awarded to the best post-graduate student with Distinction in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in the final Masters of Dental Surgery Specialty examination.
The legacy of our clinic’s founder, Dr Henry Lee, lives on today in many aspects – from the strong foundation of Specialist Dental Group’s dental implants practice (the five-person specialist team is one of the largest implant teams in private practice in Singapore) to the passion for teaching that the clinical team demonstrates, and the promotion of excellence among graduating Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery specialists in Singapore.