His was a larger than life presence and one that continues to wield influence at his alma mater even after his passing. The feisty Dr Chee Phui Hung (1923-2010), who was among the first Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) cohort to graduate from the University of Malaya (UM) in 1950, was a pioneering force in the setting up of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) vast alumni network for the medical fraternity. UM was one of NUS’ predecessor institutions.
The legendary Dr Chee, who was known as the ‘Agong’ or King for his forceful personality, believed that for NUS to be one of the world’s top universities, it had to inculcate in its undergraduates the spirit of giving back to their alma mater. His giving spirit and attachment to the University live on in the Chee Phui Hung Bursary established by the Medical Alumni Association to help deserving students studying Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy at NUS.
Mr Koe Khoon Poh, immediate past Chairman, Medical Alumni Association (SB), said, “The reason for setting up the Bursary in Dr Chee’s name was simple. Dr Chee had always championed the spirit of the alumni and spoken fearlessly about the issues of the day, especially about helping needy students, the future leaders of the professions.”
Wilson Ong, a Second Year student at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (YLLSoM), Wee Hui Ling, a Third Year student at the Department of Pharmacy, and Chen Xiangluan, from the Faculty of Dentistry, are three recipients of the Bursary, which is helping them make the most of university life and turning their thoughts to giving back to society.
Says Wilson, whose father is a driver and his mother a housewife, “Without the Bursary, I would have had to work part-time to relieve the financial situation in the family. I may have also had to give up on opportunities to participate in overseas Community Involvement Programmes and Conferences.”
Wilson decided to study medicine when he was a Secondary 1 student and his mother was in hospital with a life-threatening condition. He says, “At that time, my life was filled with uncertainty and fear. A doctor explained my mother’s condition to me and calmed my heart. He set me thinking about the life-changing power of a doctor. I told myself, one day, I will be just like him.”
Xiangluan says, “Thinking of Dr Chee’s life, it dawned on me that a successful career is measured by one’s contribution to the community rather than the wealth accumulated. Dr Chee’s spirit inspires me to contribute more to society. My family’s gratitude for the Bursary has helped us to look beyond individual needs to the bigger picture of the community.”
All three students are involved in community programmes. Wilson volunteers at Tzu Chi Medical Centre, a free clinic, and is a part of the Neighbourhood Health Screening 2012 Team and Project Silvercare 2012, which provides free health screening to disadvantaged people. Xiangluan volunteers in Cambodia and Hui Ling visits the National University Hospital to interact with patients and checks on medications for low-income families.
Hui Ling says, “Giving has always been a part of my life and receiving this Bursary has made me believe that giving is something that one does naturally for a person in need. I think it is part of human nature to take care of one’s own species.”
Wilson adds, “In the future, I would like to join the Medical Alumni Association and see how I can contribute, and possibly to the Chee Phui Hung Bursary. I would also look for other opportunities where I can contribute to society as much as possible.”
And so the spirit of the Agong passes to the next generation.