Meet Dr Yiaw Kian Mun: The Paediatric Nephrologist Who Was Inspired by His Happy Childhood Doctor’s Visits

14 January 2022

Article by: Celia Tan & Liew Shu Ling, Corporate Communication

Dr Yiaw Kian Mun
Consultant Paediatrician & Paediatric Nephrologist

Most children don't like going to the hospital and may even be afraid of seeing a doctor. This was not the case for Dr. Yiaw Kian Mun, Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist of Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City; whose frequent doctor visits motivated him to pursue a career in one of the rarest specialisations instead.

“Being an audiological handicapped child, I had many pleasant experiences visiting paediatricians throughout my childhood and it amazed me how patient and loving they were. I guess the seed of becoming a doctor myself was sown at that young age,” said Dr. Yiaw. It was this same childhood memory that kept him on the path to becoming not just any doctor, but a paediatric doctor. 

For Dr. Yiaw, paediatrics is a very sensitive and delicate specialty, so one needs to be attentive to details as well as be a good listener to make the right diagnosis and manage the patient.

“Being a pediatrician means that you need to deal with 6 individuals besides the child you are treating—that includes both the child’s parents and both sets of grandparents. We need to manage the expectations and emotions of everyone involved in the child’s life, and that in itself requires being delicate and attentive,” said Dr Yiaw. 

The Medicine of Empathy

Reminiscing back on the early days when he studied medicine in India, Dr. Yiaw says that the experience has inculcated a lot of values in who he is as a practitioner today. He recalls working amongst the lower caste of the society back then and it changed his perspective on how he viewed humanity and simple acts of kindness.

However, this experience was not the turning point in his career. “As I furthered my medical career into the western world, I began to understand and see the gaps in healthcare for our children back in Malaysia that were not on par with overseas’ medical standards. This was the reason I came home,” said Dr. Yiaw, who returned to serve as a paediatrician in government hospitals in Sabah and Kuala Lumpur, until he moved to Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City.

As a father to 3 children aged 4 to 9, Dr. Yiaw credits parenthood to helping him not just understand the needs of his children, but also empathize with the parents of his patients, who might carry the burden of having to care for a sick young child. “While some try to steer away from being a paediatrician and being a parent altogether, I see the value in being both.” he said.

Dr Yiaw attending a conference in Venice, Italy

The Rare Specialist Who Looks into Young Kidney Health

Dr Yiaw with his colleagues from a paediatric hospital in Australia

Besides General Pediatrics, Dr. Yiaw also took on a sub-specialty training in Pediatric Nephrology, where he treats children with kidney problems.

“My mentor used to tell us that we are a dying breed if not extinct soon,” mused Dr. Yiaw. “There are only less than 20 paediatric nephrologists produced in the country after almost 3 decades since this service started, and nearly half have retired or are near the end of their serving term.” he explained. 

This is also why there exists an immense pressure on the active paediatric nephrologists to shoulder the responsibility of our nation’s children who are suffering from kidney disease, in particular children with End Stage Renal Disease that amounts to nearly 1,000 of them scattered across the country.

With great challenges also come great rewards, and Dr. Yiaw shared that the most rewarding experience of his career is the process of doing a kidney transplant and taking his young patients off dialysis. 

“Getting children who have suffered from end stage renal failure on their feet again after a successful kidney transplant just brings me so much joy. The process of finding a suitable organ is painstakingly long and sometimes rare, but it is also the most rewarding because you see these children find new hope.” 

Tired but not defeated, Dr. Yiaw and his peers remain optimistic and warmly welcome new blood to join their rare specialisation.

Making Time for Work and Home

A doctor’s life packed with a busy schedule, but Dr. Yiaw makes sure he spends quality time with his family when he is off duty. Due to the pandemic, he has given up on a lot of outdoor activities where they used to spend most of their time; but these days, he finds joy in tending to his garden, stamp collecting and photography.

When asked if he watches any medical dramas, he chuckled, “I have not been able to watch any series for a long time since I got married! Furthermore, my life has enough drama with my children around. It’s like they are the scriptwriters to the drama of my life.”

As a male doctor, nursing a sick child has never really been a big challenge for him. “Perhaps most will believe that a female doctor will be better at caring for their children due to their motherly nature, but I personally don’t find any difference in the gender of the doctor when it comes to nursing sick children. In fact, the nature and character of the doctor are the ones that determine their ability to be patient, strict, yet loving to a child.”

On an ending note, Dr. Yiaw described how he would like to be perceived by his patients saying, “I would love to be someone that they can count on when they are in trouble."