Monday, January 5, 2009

Emeritus Professor Wong Hock Boon - Requiescat in Pace

Just over a week ago, while I was travelling, Emeritus Professor Wong Hock Boon passed away. He was 85.

His orbituary can be found here. There is also a very nice tribute to the late Professor by Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan here.

If anyone who would merit the title "Father of Paediatrics" in Singapore, it must surely be Professor Wong. But Professor Wong was an towering and inspirational figure who had a presence and enduring influence beyond the field of Paediatrics. He was a role model par excellence for all that was good and noble in doctoring, whether for kids or adults. On top of this, he was an excellent teacher and clinical researcher.

One of the sad facts of today's world is the lack of clear leadership in the field of Medicine, and the paucity of role models. Our generation, though soon passing, had been very blessed because we had role models such as Professor Wong.

I fully agree with Dr Huang's sentiments that "The authorities should honor Professor Wong in a way befitting his immeasurable contributions to our nation." I certainly second that motion.

In Mid 2007, a group of his ex-students got together and honoured him with a $250,000 endowment gift to the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, which enabled the setting up of a Visiting Professorship in Paediatrics. This endowment which was matched dollar for dollar by the government, will be administered as part of the Wong Hock Boon Professorship in Paediatrics, which Prof Wong had established with a contribution of $1.5 million to NUS in 2005.

But beyond this, there has sadly been precious little done by the NUS to honour this gentleman. Too often we are more than ready to honour the foreign talent who grace our shores,...or the wealthy patron with deep pockets. But the NUS apparently balks at honouring our own homegrown role models. Jesus aptly pointed out that "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." (Luke 6:4). How sad.
Prof Wong, rest well in God's embrace. We will ever remember you as the servant doctor and teacher you were. Even if the University or the medical fraternity may forget.


nofearSingapore said...

Thanks for your kind comments.
The $250K endowment was from a group of paediatricians who were Prof Wong's students ( viz Drs William Yip/Drs Ngiam etc).
It was a lovely gesture and I told William so when I read about it some months' back.
In the age of crass materialism there are still enclaves of humanity which is uncontaminated by the lure of money!

gigamole said...

Sadly though, this generation is passing. Most of WHB's students who remember are nearing retirement. WHB is probably one of the last of that generation who are recognizable role models of what is good in Medicine.

I can't help being somewhat pessimistic about the future of medical practice.