Instrumental in the set-up of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases: Benjamin Ong

Association Professor Benajmin Ong is the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal at the National Day Awards 2020. PHOTO: SINGAPORE MEDICAL COUNCIL


MOH immediate past director of medical services

Meritorious Service Medal

It was with mixed feelings that Associate Professor Benjamin Ong left his role as director of medical services (DMS) at the Ministry of Health (MOH) in February.

The coronavirus was sweeping the world, and Singapore had just detected its first case of Covid-19 on Jan 23.

For someone who entered the medical profession because he wanted to serve the public, it was not easy for Prof Ong to walk away.

But the neurologist, who returned to the National University of Singapore as senior vice-president of health education and resources, knew he had left things in the "very good hands" of Associate Professor Kenneth Mak and other colleagues.

The National Centre for Infectious Diseases, which Prof Ong was instrumental in setting up, had also just opened last year and was ready to play a central role in Singapore's fight against Sars-Cov-2. Recognising his efforts, the MOH said in his citation for the National Day Award that "this has placed Singapore in a better stead to deal with the current Covid-19 outbreak".

Prof Ong, 63, downplays his part, emphasising that he was part of a team: "I'm the product of very good mentors, teachers and colleagues."

Looking back on his six years as DMS, he said: "Being able to play a part in planning for stronger systems, in terms of preventing and responding to the kind of shocks we are currently facing, has been quite fulfilling.

"What would give me the most satisfaction is watching a new generation get better than we are and watching the structures we had a small part in developing help us to cope with the future."

A full list of this year's National Day Award recipients is available at the PMO website.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2020, with the headline Instrumental in the set-up of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases: Benjamin Ong. Subscribe