10 Minutes with...
Mr Khai Lam
Consultant Paediatric and Adult
Spinal Reconstructive Spinal Surgeon
FRCS (Edin), FRCS (Trauma and Orthopaedics)
Mr Lam has over 20 years’ experience and
helped establish the internationally renowned
Spinal Unit at Guy’s Hospital London. He now
works at the newly accredited AOSpine Centre
at London Bridge Hospital.
Mr Lam’s work is covered in excess of 100 published scientific
papers and presentations internationally. He is regarded as
a pioneer in innovative spinal surgery procedures, especially
minimal invasive spine surgery, a key opinion leader in disc
replacements and paediatric deformities, and has been a surgical
training supervisor to over 100 advanced training fellowships for
Spinal Surgeons internationally.
Mr Lam was the first British recipient of the Gold Medal of Honour
presented by Mde Chirac of France on behalf of EEDCM and on
29th June 2016, His Majesty King Kigeli V of Rwanda honoured
him as a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Lion for his
work training surgeons from Africa.
Why did you decide to study medicine?
Both my grandfather and father were prominent doctors in their
field, working in Malaysia. As a young boy, I often followed my
father to his clinic and I was able to observe how fulfilling and
rewarding it was in the way he dedicated his life to this vocation,
and hence it was my father that inspired me to study medicine.
What made you pursue your specialty?
I was privileged to work for Professor Robert Mulholland and John
Webb as a junior doctor based at the renowned Spinal Unit at
Nottingham. I was exposed to treatment of all spinal disorders and
they were able to motivate me to develop minimal invasive spine
surgery, which I am now considered a pioneer in.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I have been very fortunate to be in the position to design and track
the development of specialised spinal surgical implants, and then
utilise them to help children with spinal deformities. It is always a
delight to see the cheerful smile of a child with a straight spine, as
well as the smiles of their parents. Also, working as a UK pioneer
in minimal invasive spine surgery, it is gratifying to see how this
technique has now been adopted as a conventional technique
that allows fast post-surgical recovery and early return back to
work and sports.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy many hobbies ranging from cooking, classical music and
opera, mountaineering, to sports such as running, Formula 1, tennis,
cricket and rugby. I find opera most enjoyable because of its
ability to transform motion and music into personal relaxation and
What is the title of your ‘best read’ so far?
One of my most recent reads was ‘
Sylvia, Queen of the
’. Sylvia Brooke was the spouse of HH Sir Vyner
Brooke, last Rajah of Sarawak, an English ruling dynasty of
Borneo between 1841 and 1946. It was a fascinating historical look
into the interaction of the British Empire with the Far East during
Victorian and Edwardian times.
If you could invite three people to dinner,
living or dead, who would they be?
As an opera fan, I would invite Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza and
Luciano Pavarotti to see who can sing
‘Vesti la giubba’
) the best. It is a moving tenor aria from Ruggero
Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera
, sung at the end of the first
act. Canio discovers his wife’s infidelity, but must nonetheless
prepare for his performance as Pagliacci the clown because ‘’the
show must go on’’.
What is special about where you grew up?
I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My father was a prominent
ENT surgeon, so we grew up in a world that combined academic
rigour with tropical comforts.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
As I live in busy London, my favourite escapes are to the
wilderness. I had a great experience waking up in a log cabin
facing Mount Denali (aka ‘the tall one’ formerly Mount McKinley)
that is situated in the vast expanse of Denali National Park
covering eight million acres of the Alaskan wilderness. Our days
were spent trekking the mountainous arctic tundra and avoiding
the grizzly bears.
Who would you get to play yourself in a movie?
George Clooney would play ‘a day in the life of a spinal surgeon’.
However, he will have to refrain from performing any stunts
following his devastating spinal injury, which occurred in 2005
whilst filming the movie,
. He will have to stick to being
charismatic, charming and gracious.
For more information, please contact the
GP Liaison Department
T: 020 7234 2009