Dr John Anantharajah Tambyah (’63) will always be remembered as a dedicated and caring man, with a passion for serving others. The late endocrinologist started volunteering as a young medical officer to help the elderly. He also helped start Rag and Flag Day while he was a medical student at the University of Singapore, which was a predecessor of the National University of Singapore (NUS), to help raise funds for those in need.
Dr Tambyah always put others before himself. To honour his contributions and continue his legacy, his family has established the Dr John A Tambyah Bursary at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
His daughter Malini Tambyah says, “We want to grant access to those who would not otherwise have had access to a medical career in the hope that they will emulate my father’s ethical, intellectual and very caring approach to healthcare of all regardless of wealth or status.”
The Bursary, awarded annually, will support the living expenses of one medical student facing financial hardship. The first Dr John A Tambyah Bursary will be given out in AY 2012/2013.
Dr Tambyah’s father passed away when he was two years old , just before the Second World War. After the trials and tribulations of war, his mother raised five children on a pension. His eldest brother Richard Tambyah (’48), a graduate of Raffles College (another predecessor of NUS) and a Mathematics teacher, was a great help to her.
Dr Tambyah’s wife and Malini’s mother Leaena says, “He was a firm believer in the value of education. He was always on the lookout for opportunities to support medical and other students in need. Even during his illness, he arranged for one of his nurses to go back to his studies which he had had to interrupt due to lack of funds.”
Over the years, many NUS Medical students have benefited from his guidance. Dr Tambyah was appointed a Clinical Tutor in 1969 and continued teaching even when he went into private practice.
Dr John Tambyah also contributed to the establishment of the Diabetes Care Fund for needy patients, and strongly encouraged and supported the Association of Diabetes Educators (Singapore).
Dr Tambyah passed away on 5 April 2011. His selflessness is reiterated in a eulogy published in the Singapore Medical Association News by fellow endocrinologist and friend Dr Gwee Hak Meng in which Dr Tambyah is described as a “gentleman par excellence” until his last days.
The Eulogy also quotes a letter from Mr Tye Lee Tze, Singapore’s first podiatrist whom Dr Tambyah helped recruit. In his letter, Mr Tye said, “It takes a person like you to not only remember to live not for selfish means, but for selfless means. Such things as treating patients as real people, treating people the correct way, being of the highest integrity, and not being motivated by monetary gains but by genuine care and concern for fellow humans.”
A tribute by the family of the late Dr John Tambyah can be found at http://www.johnanantharajahtambyah.org.
More details on the Bursary can be found here.