AUG 3, 2002 SAT
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Putting 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.



'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 species.'

  • 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 Association.

    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 practice.

    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 fields.

    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 overseas.

    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 Substation.

    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 boy.

    Both boys stopped needing monthly blood transfusions after the procedures.

    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 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.'

  • 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 ninth.

    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.'


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