Lives of the fellows

Heng Leong Chan

b.6 February 1941 d.26 May 2003
MB BS Singapore(1965) MRACP(1969) MRCP(1972) FRACP(1974) FAMS(1977) FRCP(1984) FRCP Edin(1992) FACP(1993) FRCP Glasg(1997)

Heng Leong Chan was professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore and emeritus consultant at the National Skin Centre.

Born in Perak, Malaysia, he spent much of his childhood in Penang. He graduated from Singapore's medical school (then the University of Singapore) in 1965, securing several gold and silver medals and prizes.

He worked briefly as a lecturer in medicine at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He obtained his MRACP in 1969 and his membership of the College in 1972. While in London, he also received specialised training at the St. John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin and obtained the diploma of dermatology.

On his return from Britain, he was appointed lecturer at the university's department of medicine at Singapore General Hospital. He proved to be an excellent physician, with a quiet and meticulous approach to patient care that endeared him to patients, peers and colleagues alike. However, it was the effect that he had as a teacher and role model for students that stood out. Ever approachable and patient, he was an encouraging mentor. He was particularly keen to inculcate in students a durable appreciation of what he called "medical humanities".

In the specialty of dermatology, he proved a worthy champion and was instrumental in the early development of this area of clinical specialisation. He would subsequently spend many years involved with specialty training for dermatology. He was a visiting scholar at the University of California in 1979 and visiting professor in dermatology at the Harvard Medical School in Boston in 1987. Rightly, he was the foundation chairman of the specialist training committee for dermatology and member of the parent specialist accreditation board. He had also served on the Singapore Medical Council, the highest medical statutory authority for the regulation of professional and ethical standards.

The National University of Singapore, in recognising his contributions to clinical service, teaching as well as research, rapidly promoted him to associate professor in 1977 and professor of medicine in 1984. His academic contributions included over 100 publications that attest to his clinical interests in dermatological manifestations of systemic disease and adverse drug reactions. He authored two books in 1986, covering these areas, and a third, in 2001, on cutaneous adverse drug reactions. Chan also contributed as editor or editorial adviser to several medical journals, both local and international. He served as head of the department of medicine over two terms at the National University Hospital.

More recently, he took on the added task of formulating guidelines in clinical and research ethics and offered a consultant service for difficult cases. He was chairman of the research ethics committee and of the committee of bioethics at the National University Hospital, and chair of the committee of medical ethics, in the faculty of medicine at the National University of Singapore.

He was actively involved with both Singapore and international medical bodies, and was a long-standing fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, and the American College of Physicians. He was elected to the Fellowship of the College in 1984 and was a regional adviser. He was the chief examiner for the master of medicine in internal medicine at Singapore's School of Postgraduate Medical Studies from 1993. Rightly, he was Singapore's first member to serve on the MRCP (UK) part two board of the UK Royal Colleges of Physicians.

In addition, he initiated the graduate diploma of dermatology in 1999 for the school of postgraduate medical studies. In this, as in all that he achieved in his life, Chan was thorough and persuasive, without being overbearing and a fair and balanced examiner.

The many generations of doctors he taught, trained and nurtured will always be immensely grateful to him. They will be his lasting tribute. Chan was also a devoted family man and he is survived by his doctor-wife, Beang Khoon, and two sons. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Benjamin K C Ong
Chew Chin-Hin
V M S Oh

[Annals Academy of Medicine, July 2003,vol.32,no.4; J.R.Coll.Physicians.Edinb., 2003;33:298-299]

(Volume XI, page 103)

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