After graduating from U of T’s Faculty of Medicine in 1999, and completing his Postgraduate Training at U of T in 2001, Lam became a staff physician in the Emergency Department at Toronto East General Hospital. His medical work has included work aboard Arctic and Antarctic ships. In 2006, he received an appointment as a Lecturer at U of T.
Lam‘s first book, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, is a collection of short stories inspired by Lam’s experiences as a U of T medical student. This book won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary prize. Lam’s debut novel, The Headmaster’s Wager, concerns a Chinese compulsive gambler and headmaster of an English school in Saigon during the Vietnam War. It is inspired by Lam’s own family history, and was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award. Lam is also the author of a biography of Tommy Douglas, the founder of Canadian Medicare.
Being a doctor and an author are quite similar in some ways, Lam suggests. “They’re both exercises in storytelling. What happens to you, as a doctor, is that someone comes to you and tells you the beginning of the story. What they’re hoping you’ll do is tell them the end of the story.”