A gift of rare medical books and shares from renowned plastic surgeon Dr Khoo Boo Chai (’54) has enabled the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM) to establish the Khoo Boo Chai Athenaeum at NUS. The Athenaeum, located at the Khoo Teck Puat-Advanced Surgery Training Centre at the National University Hospital, houses Dr Khoo’s medical books, many of them autographed by authors, as well as other books, journals and materials.
Dr Khoo Teng Chuan (’82), Dr Khoo Boo Chai’s son and Chief Medical Officer at the Singapore Clinical Research Institute, says, “My parents always considered education as one of the most important determinant factors that shapes a person’s future and career. Through this gift of his lifetime collection of rare books, our family hopes to enable those who seek this knowledge to gain the wisdom and apply it to their medical practice to benefit patients as well as impart this knowledge to future generations of surgeons.”
Explaining his father’s deep love for the free exchange of knowledge and skills, the younger Dr Khoo says, “When our father started in his early career in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, he was at first driven by the need to help patients with cleft lips and palates. The early surgical procedures that tried to correct these congenital abnormalities were woefully inadequate and did not do a good job of addressing issues of speech impediment and the cosmetic results were poor. It was during his very early training under Professor Benjamin Sheares that he learned about the careful treatment of tissues and wounds and suturing techniques that formed the basis to inspire him to try and address the unmet need of the cleft lip and palate repair.
“He was deeply aware that the then emerging specialty of Plastic Surgery was poorly equipped in addressing the training needs of surgeons interested in this area. He took it upon himself to seek training from Plastic Surgery pioneers in America, Japan, Scotland and other centres of excellence. He felt that there was a dearth of opportunities to train and share sophisticated surgical techniques with young budding plastic surgeons and he then made it his life’s mission to freely share his knowledge and skills with all those who sought him out as a teacher and mentor – especially in this part of the world.”
Professor Lee Chuen Neng (’75), Head of the Department of Surgery at YLLSoM, says, “The Department of Surgery at YLLSoM is honoured to be the custodian of Dr Khoo’s treasured collection of medical books, all of which were a significant part of his life and passion for medicine and medical education. The Athenaeum will be an extremely useful resource in advancing medical education and research and will benefit many future generations of surgeons, both locally and regionally.”
When asked what advice his father would give to current medical students, Dr Khoo says, “I believe that he would tell them to work hard, aim high and always have a world view in all things. Travel and see the world and learn from what others are doing. Be selfless in giving of your time and knowledge to your fellow physicians and surgeons alike. He would also discourage medical students to consider Medicine as a way to chase the dollar, as above all else, a patient’s needs must come first. To this, I would add to ensure that there is a life outside the workplace and not to let work consume you to the neglect of everything else in life.”
This year, in tribute to the 90th birthday of Singapore’s Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, NUS will dedicate gifts and pledges recorded by the University from 1 January to 31 December 2013, with the consent of our donors, to honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew. In addition, NUS has set up the Lee Kuan Yew Endowed Fund which will go towards bursaries for financially needy undergraduate students.
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