In 1974 she studied medicine at Monash University on a Colombo Plan scholarship.
In 1984 she was awarded a fellowship with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
In 1988 she completed a Ph.D. in cell immunology at Cambridge University under a Winston Churchill Scholarship.
In 1989 she was appointed Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Surgery at the National University of Singapore Hospital.
In 1990 she successfully performed the first liver transplant in Asia history.
In 1991 she rose to the prestigious position of associate professor in surgery.
In 1995 she left the university and went into private practice, it was difficult for her to be a surgeon, a researcher and a lecturer all at once.
In 2000 she was named Singapore's "Spirit of the Century" following a national contest to select a role model for the 21st century.
In 2003 she founded Stem Cell Technologies which researches the use of adult stem cells for cell therapy and regenerative medicine.
In 2005 she became the youngest-ever elected Fellow of Trinity College at University of Melbourne.
In 2006 she was awarded the Monash University Distinguished Alumnus and appointed visiting professor at the Institute of Cell and Molecular Science at Barts and Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London.
In 2008, the U.S. Committee for Review & Recognition named the 28th American Academy of Continuing Medical Education award "the Susan Lim Award". It recognizes achievement in the advancement of laparoscopic and minimally invasive surgeries.
In spite of her busy schedule, Dr Lim provided breast cancer treatment for the younger sister of Brunei's Queen from 2001. In 2007 she spent 33 days in Brunei, setting up a "medical infrastructure" there for her patient who died 7 months later in August. Between March 8 and June 28, Dr Lim sent several invoices for services rendered, adding up to a total of $24.8 million. The bill is at the heart of a court case between Dr Lim and the Singapore Medical Council (SMC). Reportedly reduced to $3.25 million, it is still a substantial sum, with or without the assistance of Medisave, Medifund or Medishield.
"Are you worth all that money?" was the final question presented by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interviewer Jonathan Head in 2009, who had read that "you’re apparently the highest-paid head of government in the world." Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's reply (snipped off by local censors) comes to mind here:
"We go on a system which is open, honest, transparent. What is the job worth, what is the quality of person whom you want. You need the best people for the job and these are jobs where you make decisions which are worth billions of dollars. And you cannot do that if you’re pretending and you just say, well, we’re all in it for the love of king and country. We wanted to be honest, we want people not to come in for the money but at the same time, their sacrifice cannot be too great."
Supporters of Dr Lim argue that charging as much as the market will bear is an accepted practice in business, even the SMC Code of Ethics has nothing to go after doctors about the pricing of their services. But is it acceptable practice for governance?
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