A general practitioner and the healthcare charity he co-founded have received The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award for 2017.
Dr Goh Wei Leong and HealthServe, which provides migrant workers with affordable healthcare, beat nine other finalists for the award yesterday.
Organised by The Straits Times and sponsored by UBS Singapore, the award honours Singaporeans who have put the country on the world map, persevered through incredible adversity or made the community a better place through selfless acts. It is now in its third year.
HealthServe, founded in 2006 by Dr Goh and businessman Tang Shin Yong, has dental and medical clinics in Geylang, Mandai and Jurong. It also offers social assistance, skills training and a food programme.
President Halimah Yacob presented Dr Goh and HealthServe with a $20,000 cash prize and a trophy at the ceremony at UBS University Asia-Pacific in Kheam Hock Road.
Dr Goh said after receiving the award: "I am thrilled, surprised, really humbled. Getting to know the other finalists personally has been the highlight for us today."
Madam Halimah said of Dr Goh and his team: "They are a truly deserving recipient. They have been doing this for a very long time, with all that passion... It is not easy to sustain that kind of contribution.
Noting that the award "brings the best out of Singaporeans", she said of the finalists: "They give of their best, and I think they have a lot of passion to serve... That is what we want, a compassionate, caring society."
She commended Dr Goh for thinking not just about Singaporeans, but also foreign workers who come here to help build the country and serve other Singaporeans.
Referring to the award, she added: "It has inspired me - I hope it will inspire others as well."
In the running this year were 10 finalists, aged 15 to 57. The nine who missed out on the top prize each received $5,000. They are film-maker Kirsten Tan, conductor Wong Kah Chun, cartoonist Sonny Liew, para-athlete Jason Chee, indoor skydiver Kyra Poh, student Muhammad Luqman Abdul Rahman, lawyer Satwant Singh, martial arts instructor Qin Yunquan and emergency responders Mohamad Fuad Abdul Aziz and Syed Abdillah Alhabshee.
They were picked from 60 nominees by a panel of 15 judges, who took into account the results of a public vote. The judging panel included senior staff of The Straits Times and UBS, and prominent figures like social entrepreneur and activist Saleemah Ismail, chef and restaurateur Willin Low and singer-songwriter Dick Lee.
The inaugural award for 2015 went to Good Samaritan Noriza A. Mansor, for helping an elderly Chinese man who had soiled himself in public. The 2016 award was given to Joseph Schooling and his parents Colin and May for their dedication and sacrifice in chasing the dream of an Olympic gold for Singapore.
The finalists, who sat down to a three-course dinner by Chef Alan Wong of Lavish Dine Catering, had the chance to mingle with former winners and nominees of the award.
Mr Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media group and editor of The Straits Times, said in his speech: "By uncovering their stories, and shining a spotlight on their efforts, we at The Straits Times hope to celebrate them, and uphold the values they represent as a reflection of the kind of society we would like to see in Singapore."
He noted that Singapore is a well-known global brand that stands for efficiency and reliability, and is also known for its top-rated airport and seaport. While these remain important, many now want the country to also go beyond these achievements.
"Many Singaporeans today want ours to be a society that is known also for our compassion and care, our creativity and our culture, our courage in the face of adversity, as well as the courage to dare to think and be different," he said.
Mr Fernandez gave a special mention to Australian national Silvia Hajas, who saved three boys from drowning in the sea off East Coast Park last May. "For her instinctive selflessness and courage, all of us know she deserves our respect and gratitude... and we are honoured to have her in Singapore as part of our community," he said.
Mr Edmund Koh, UBS' country head in Singapore and its head of wealth management in Asia-Pacific, lauded the "selfless contributions" of Dr Goh and HealthServe, while adding: "We celebrate all the finalists as they are each deserving in their own way."
He told the finalists: "There were a few tears shed because of (your) achievements, your altruism of doing that, day in, day out, without any recognition or asking for anything. That is the human spirit that is most important."
• Additional reporting by Rahimah Rashith