S'pore on the world map
The Singapore Totalisator Board honoured four individuals and one
organisation last night for putting Singapore on the international
map. SHAHIDA ARIFF profiles the recipients of the Excellence
for Singapore Award.
FIRE IN THE BLOOD
'What's interesting is that it all starts with research in the
lab and then, later, it gets translated into patient care.
When you're able to take a theory and apply it, then it really
fires the excitement...It's a very exciting area, and if I had to do
it all over again, I would.'
- Associate Professor Patrick
Tan, on his work involving patients with thalassaemia major, a
hereditary blood disorder
JURONG BIRDPARK: Fun for visitors, boost to birds
CREATING a unique experience for visitors, along with marked
success in breeding and conserving endangered birds, have brought
Jurong BirdPark its world-class status, executive director Wong Hon
Mun said last night.
Jurong BirdPark became the third pillar of Wildlife Reserves
Singapore to win the Excellence for Singapore award.
The Singapore Zoo won the award last year, while the Night Safari
was recognised in 1996.
The award is the latest in a string of successes for the bird
park. Last year, it won recognition from the American Pheasant and
Waterfowl Society for being the first in the world to breed the
Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise.
It also won a silver award from the prestigious International
Festivals and Events Association for its 'dinner with the penguins'
event. It had turned the viewing gallery in the penguin enclosure
into an area where visitors could enjoy fine dining.
As recently as May, the park successfully bred a newly-discovered
species of the hummingbird, a first in the Asia-Pacific region.
Dr Wong said: 'We want visitors to enjoy the displays and shows
and, at the same time, think about issues like nature conservation.
On our part, we hope to upgrade our skills and knowledge further, so
future generations will have a chance to see some of these dying
PROF LUN KWOK CHAN: Making IT count in medicine
PROFESSOR Lun Kwok Chan realised how information technology would
be useful in the medical field as far back as 1976.
He was then teaching medical statistics at the National
University of Singapore - a subject which, he said, his students did
not find 'terribly exciting'.
'I thought then about how we could use IT to help students learn
the subject in a painless way,' the 54-year-old recalled.
In the years that followed, the vice-dean of the Nanyang
Technological University's school of biological sciences has been
one of the strongest advocates of using IT in medicine.
Last year, he became the first Singaporean and second Asian to
become the president of the International Medical Informatics
It is the highest professional recognition in the field of
medical informatics, a discipline where information and
communications technology is used in health and medical research and
In 1996, he co-developed the world's first 3-D virtual hospital
on the Internet, a webpage designed like a hospital floor plan.
Through it, surfers can access links to all the major medical
He also developed a website that won the first prize in an
international Internet summit in Geneva in 1998.
Now, he hopes to work on a long-time interest - tele-medicine,
where IT is used to deliver health care from a distance.
He said: 'IT can do much, from being an efficient mechanism in
hospital information systems to enabling individuals to go for
treatment without the hassle of moving about.'
PLAYWRIGHT KUO PAO KUN: Writing, directing for 30 years
VETERAN bilingual playwright Kuo Pao Kun's award last night was
the latest to join his list of accolades.
In 1989, the 63-year-old won the Cultural Medallion, the highest
national arts honour here.
Four years later, he received the Association of South-east Asian
Nations Award for the Performing Arts and in 1997, the Chevalier de
l'Order des Arts et des Lettres, a knighthood of arts and letters
awarded by the French government.
In between awards, his Chinese and English works were translated
into various languages including Malay, Tamil, German and Japanese.
His works have been performed by theatre companies here and
His 30-odd years of writing and directing plays started in 1965,
when he started the Practice Performing Arts School.
He later founded the Theatre Practice company and arts centre The
His latest contribution to the theatre scene is the Theatre
Training and Research Programme, which he co-founded in 2000.
It provides training in Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Indonesian
theatre traditions, and contemporary Western theatre.
Prof Patrick Tan: Pioneer work in blood disorders
AFTER 17 years of working on the treatment of blood disorders,
Associate Professor Patrick Tan finally won his first major national
award last night.
The 45-year-old, who heads the Singapore General Hospital's
department of haematology, has put the Republic on the world map
with his achievements.
They include two world firsts involving patients with
thalassaemia major, a blood disorder where the body is unable to
produce haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body.
In one, he transplanted blood stem cells from an unrelated female
donor to a five-year-old boy.
The other was also a transplant, this time involving blood from
an umbilical cord from an unrelated donor to another five-year-old
Both boys stopped needing monthly blood transfusions after the
Prof Tan has also pioneered techniques to treat other blood
diseases such as leukaemia and anaemia.
The father of two sons is now concentrating on researching ways
to use cells to treat people suffering from various diseases.
He said: 'What's interesting is that it all starts off with
research in the lab and then, later, it gets translated into patient
'When you're able to take a theory and apply it, then it really
fires the excitement... It's a very exciting area, and if I had to
do it all over again, I would.'
SPORTSWOMAN LI JIAWEI: Table-tennis' golden girl
IN THE past five years, table-tennis player Li Jiawei has won
countless titles for the country, including more than 20 gold medals
from regional and international competitions.
The Excellence for Singapore Award last night is the third she
has received this year.
The 21-year-old was named Sportswoman of the Year in March, and
won Singapore's first gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in 40
years on Tuesday.
Mr Michael Yeung, the honorary secretary of the Singapore Table
Tennis Association who received her award on her behalf, said that
Li deserved it for her hard work.
'She tries so hard and gives her best all the time, even during
training,' he said.
'She wants to do well in every tournament she competes in.'
This hard work, he added, is reflected in her meteoric rise in
the world rankings - from 74th in 1999 to her current position of
In a recorded interview screened at the Shangri-La last night,
she said: 'I'm very happy to receive this award.
'With this, I will strive to achieve even better re- sults.'