SINGAPORE - President Tony Tan Keng Yam was conferred honorary membership by the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) on Saturday evening, during the association's 56th anniversary dinner.
The honour is the highest that SMA confers on those who have made significant contributions to the medical profession or to the nation.
In his speech at the dinner, Dr Tan addressed the need to deal with Singapore's rapidly ageing population. "We need to increase emphasis on primary and family care and renew support for the field of geriatric medicine," he said.
He said that while in 2000, the number of Singapore residents aged 65 years and above stood at just over 230,000, this had surpassed 430,000 last year, with the year-on-year growth rate reaching 6.7 per cent.
In this greying society, cancer, chronic disease and dementia are becoming more prevalent, he said. "We are adding capacity to manage the health needs of older patients, who take longer to recover and who are at higher risk of medical complications. To help Singaporeans age healthily, the Government is exploring preventive strategies to improve population health."
He also stressed the importance of role models, senior doctors who continue to serve past the age of retirement and mentor the next generation of medical professionals.
"This mix of the young with the more experienced bodes well for the future, in the training and modelling for the young by the seniors in the science and art of holistic medicine," he said.
SMA president Dr Wong Tien Hua commended Dr Tan for his support of higher medical education and cutting edge research, citing his involvement with establishing the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and his chairing of the National Research Foundation, among other things.
Said Dr Wong: "Dr Tan's passion and support for medical education and training has led directly to the expansion of our pool of medical professionals."
Since 1959, SMA has represented the majority of medical practitioners in both the public and private healthcare sectors.
Previous recipients of SMA honorary membership include Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his late father Lee Kuan Yew, as well as former presidents Wee Kim Wee and Benjamin Sheares.