Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creating Waves in More Ways Than One

Having researched and met Prof Roy Chan, I wonder why we have not interviewed him earlier. Much earlier. He is such an awesome human being, and a Singaporean we can all be proud of.

On the surface, we know him as Director of the National Skin Centre, and former Head of the National Sexually-Transmitted Illness (STIs) Control Programme here. But he is also the (medical) face of AIDS in Singapore.

In 1988, he founded the NGO, Action for AIDS, compelled after working with patients in his years at Middle Road Hospital. Till today, Roy serves as its President. It's been 21 years. AfA becomes an "adult" this year, we all note with a round of chuckles.

And Roy has worked tirelessly for 2 decades to bring awareness & understanding of the illness and support to those living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

We learnt more about the HIV/AIDS situation in Singapore, and just how far we have come since AIDS exploded into our consciousness in the early 1980s.

With anonymous testing, more & more people are coming forward to be tested. And Singapore has one of the lowest per capital rates in the world, comparable to the UK and Australia ~ thanks to the work of AfA for creating public awareness here.

I chatted with two friends who have volunteered with Action for AIDS for years, and they gush about how dedicated Roy is. Perhaps his commitment & discipline comes from years of training in a totally different field? Yes, we're talking about swimming.

Roy Chan comes from Singapore's most famous swimming family ~ the legendary Chan family.

In awe of a Singapore gem: Prof Roy Chan.

His father is the late Dr Chan Ah Kow, who raised national champions, despite not being a competitive swimmer himself. He was the first Singaporean to be awarded Coach of the Year thrice, and consecutively.

Of course, we know Singapore's Golden Girl, Pat Chan, who dominated the pool for a decade. And her brothers, Mark Chan and Alex. But who is oldest? Here's the sibling sequence: (1) Alex, (2) Pat, (3) Roy, (4) Mark. Now all excelling in their various fields outside of swimming.

We had a lively chat about their upbringing, and it was a lovely insight into the childhood of the legendary Chan children. "Nothing remotely normal about it," Roy recounts with a bemused smile.

What the encounter left me was a sense of this man's quiet humility. There were no airs about him. He shook my hand firmly, answered our questions thoughtfully, and always looked us in the eye, and with a smile.

It was only later that I found out from Benedict Thambiah, who volunteers with AfA, that Roy was in the SEA Games, Asian Games, and even the Olympics!

This man should be awarded a Public Service Medal. I don't think I stand alone in saying I feel proud that Prof Roy Chan is a son of Singapore.

No comments: