NUS University Professor Tan Chorh Chuan among three top recipients at National Day Awards

NUS University Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, along with Mr Gopinath Pillai, Senior Advisor to the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies, and Mr Lee Tzu Yang, a member of the S R Nathan Fellowship Committee at the NUS Institute of Policy Studies, were conferred The Distinguished Service Order, the highest honours at this year’s National Day Awards. The annual awards recognise individuals for their merit and service to Singapore.

Prof Tan, NUS’ fourth President, has been the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Chief Health Scientist and concurrently Executive Director of the Ministry’s Office for Healthcare Transformation since 2018. At the ministry, he works with the healthcare and government sectors as well as industry and community partners to identify future-oriented concepts and care models to enhance patient care and ensure its cost-effectiveness and sustainability. He also guides the ministry’s research and development agenda, particularly in the health and biomedical sciences. 

Other NUS leaders who received National Day Awards include:

  • Professor Yeoh Khay Guan, Public Administration Medal (Gold) 
  • Professor Chong Yap Seng, Public Administration Medal (Silver) 
  • Associate Professor Kang Hway Chuan, Public Administration Medal (Silver) 
  • Professor Susanna Leong, Public Administration Medal (Silver) 
  • Professor Teo Yik Ying, Public Administration Medal (Silver) 
  • Mr Bernard Toh, Public Administration Medal (Silver) 
  • Professor Peter Ho, Public Administration Medal (Bronze) 
  • Associate Professor Gary Tan, Public Administration Medal (Bronze)

View the full list of members of the NUS community who received National Day Awards this year, and read last year’s NUS News story on National Day Awards 2021 here.

Prof Tan has been a key figure at critical moments in Singapore’s public health. As Director of Medical Services at MOH, he oversaw the ministry’s battle against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, receiving the Public Service Star in 2003 for his exemplary leadership. More recently, he was appointed member of the Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination in 2020, which advises the government on Singapore’s vaccination strategy.

In 2018, Prof Tan was conferred the title of University Professor, the highest academic appointment accorded by NUS. He was recognised for serving the University with distinction – first as Provost and Senior Deputy President between 2004 and 2008, and subsequently as President from 2008 to 2017. In its citation, the University placed on record initiatives he spearheaded that helped NUS become one of the world’s leading universities with a reputation for innovative global education and world-class research. These included the opening of University Town, the expansion of NUS Overseas Colleges, and the growth of the University’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Also lauded for his distinguished contributions was Mr Pillai, former Chairman of the Indian Heritage Centre Advisory Board.

Mr Pillai is known for playing a leading role in fostering Singapore-India relations, both as an investor in India and through his work as the founding Chairman of the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies from 2004 to 2021. Under his leadership, the institute has become one of the most influential think-tanks focusing on South Asia through initiatives such as the South Asian Diaspora Convention, which featured senior political and business personalities. For his efforts in advancing Singapore-India relations, Mr Pillai was conferred the Padma Shri Award by the Indian government in 2012.

A veteran diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Pillai has served as ambassador-at-large and was Singapore’s longest-serving Non-Resident Ambassador to Iran.

Rounding up the recipients of this year’s most prestigious National Day Award is Mr Lee, Chairman of the Public Service Commission since 2018.

A former member of the NUS Council and later, NUS Board of Trustees (2004 to 2010), Mr Lee was Chairman of Shell in Singapore until his retirement in 2014. He was conferred the NUS Outstanding Service Award in 2016. Mr Lee’s involvement with the Institute of Policy Studies started when he was invited to sit on the institute’s Board of Governors in 2002, a position he held until 2007. Since then, he has served as member of its Academic Panel from 2012 to 2018, and is currently a member of the S R Nathan Fellowship Committee.

The Meritorious Service Medal, the second-highest award this year, went to Dr Andrew Phang Boon Leong, Justice of the Court of Appeal and Chair of the NUS Law Advisory Council.

Several members of the NUS Board of Trustees also received awards. The Public Service Star went to Mr Chaly Mah, who is also Chairman of the Singapore Tourism Board, and Dr Sudha Nair, who is also a member of the Public Service Commission. Mr Lai Chung Han, Permanent Secretary for Education at the Ministry of Education, received the Public Administration Medal (Gold).