Text: Christine Teh and Jennifer Su | Art Direction: Tan Hui Qin | Photos: Jane Fong
When Dorothy Goh (SBS/2018) graduated, among the guests who clapped loudly for her was Mr Sim Hoay Cheok, the donor of her NTU Sim Yung Chong Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Scholarship, who came dressed in a formal suit like a proud parent.
As part of the first cohort of the scholarship, Dorothy has been keeping in touch with Mr Sim for the last eight years since graduating. She was also very touched when Mr Sim and his wife turned up in Beijing to have dinner with her and her fellow scholars while they were there for a traineeship in 2018.
“Mr Sim is definitely more than a donor. To me, he is a mentor and someone I look up to. I admire him not only for his success but also his generosity and his willingness to extend a helping hand to those from less well-off families,” said Dorothy, who is currently a part-time acupuncture physician at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and a part-time TCM physician.
A down-to-earth Singaporean businessman, 78-year-old Mr Sim diligently scaled up a car spare parts business his father handed down to him while raising three children.
While he only finished secondary school, Mr Sim firmly believes in the value of education and looks up to the late Dr Lee Kong Chian, the well-known Singapore philanthropist who founded the Lee Foundation.
“When I was studying at The Chinese High School, I saw Dr Lee dressed in a white suit at the opening ceremony of the Kuo Chuan Library building that he had donated towards in his father's name. I grew a deep respect for Dr Lee after learning how he poured his fortune into education. During that time, the Chinese community also warmly supported the establishment of the predecessor institution of NTU, Nanyang University.
A decade ago, his youngest son told him about financially disadvantaged students at NTU who juggled part-time work to pay for their school fees. Knowing this got him thinking about donating to the cause of education, following in the footsteps of Dr Lee.
Mr Sim says: “Due to my family’s financial circumstances in the tumultuous 1960s, the chance to attend university was given to my elder brother who is more academically inclined, and my father asked me to learn car parts trading under him.
Now that I have fulfilled my duties as a father to my own children, I am at a life stage where I find it is more meaningful to nurture the next generation.”
The Sim family’s first gift to NTU was an endowment fund to start the Sim Yung Chong TCM Scholarship in 2013. It is open to promising, financially challenged third-year students pursuing the double degree programme in biomedical sciences and Chinese medicine at the NTU School of Biological Sciences.
(From left) Mr Sim’s youngest son, second son and daughter-in law are NTU alumni, which also inspired him to donate to NTU.
In 2018, Mr Sim formally set up the Sim Foundation to get his family involved in philanthropy and to create a lasting family legacy. The foundation allows future generations of the Sim family to collectively build on the groundwork laid by Mr Sim.
The Sim Foundation has also established the Sim Yung Chong Medical Scholarship for medical undergraduates at NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) in 2018.
Mr Sim named both scholarships in honour of his late father, and has supported 25 NTU students to date.
The Sim Yung Chong TCM Scholarship remains the largest endowed scholarship that has been established in support of the University's Traditional Chinese Medicine undergraduate programme.
Developing close-knit community
Beyond giving them financial support, Mr Sim aims to foster a deeper relationship with the award recipients and showers them with concern. He is proud that many of the award recipients are practising TCM physicians who are role models to their juniors.
(From left) Ying Xin, Dorothy and Wen Xuan are heeding Mr Sim’s call for more research to support TCM methodologies.
While in Beijing, Dorothy took Mr Sim’s advice to explore nearby Chinese cities to expand her horizons. She also makes it a point to attend get-togethers organised by Mr Sim.
Her former coursemates Sandy Ong (SBS/2018) and Wong Ying Xin (SBS/2018) even invited Mr Sim to attend their weddings.
Sandy says: “Receiving the Sim Yung Chong TCM Scholarship brought me more than just financial relief. It was a validation of all the efforts I had put in the first two years of my studies. Pursuing a career in Traditional Chinese Medicine definitely takes a great deal of perseverance and hard work, but being able to heal and improve the wellbeing of others is its own reward. Mr Sim’s passion for Chinese medicine is inspiring, and that reinforces my own passion and desire to help the sick.”
Mr and Mrs Sim at Sandy’s graduation in 2018.
Ying Xin is the Head of the education department at Singapore College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is also a TCM physician at a private clinic.
Kvan Yam Jie Ming, a Year 2 LKCMedicine student, is appreciative of the NTU Sim Yung Chong Medical Scholarship, which helps alleviate the financial burden on his family so that he can focus on his studies and work towards becoming a trustworthy doctor.
Kvan recounts some pearls of wisdom from Mr Sim: “He encouraged me to be the kind of doctor I wish to be tended by – one who treats patients with kindness and compassion.”
Kvan (back row, third from right) and NTU Sim Yung Chong Medical Scholarship beneficiaries at a recent gathering hosted by Mr Sim and his wife. Kvan is appreciative of how this scholarship helps alleviate the financial burden on his family so that he can focus on his studies.
A heart for medical studies
At the scholarship selection interviews, Mr Sim always asks if the applicant is confident of completing the course.
“I envisage these endowed scholarships as long-term support for NTU students. My only wish for them is that they will finish their degrees and go on to forge a career as a medical professional, contributing to society with their medical knowledge,” remarks Mr Sim.
For endowed donations, the principal sum donated is invested to generate returns in perpetuity. Only the distributed income from the principal sum's investment is used to provide financial help to students.
Before NTU, Mr Sim started his philanthropic work at Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution and further donated to get the Thong Chai Institute of Medical Research off the ground. He now serves as their Honorary Chairman.
The gatherings organised by Mr Sim provide his beneficiaries with a networking platform as well as a place for emotional support.
When asked why he picked medical studies as his philanthropic focus, Mr Sim reveals he was motivated to groom physicians and medical researchers to meet the medical needs of an ageing population in Singapore.
While he is not an expert, Mr Sim believes that Chinese medicine complements Western medicine as it has a comprehensive therapeutic system that has been in practice for thousands of years. However, it is often considered “less scientific”.
“I find that the support for Chinese medicine education and research is lacking. If they are interested in research, graduates should pursue it after their undergraduate degree. Once there is more scientific research to prove TCM methodologies, the standard and the reputation of practitioners will be raised, which would lead to a higher level of acceptance and interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine,” says Mr Sim.
His advice has been heeded by the award recipients.
Ying Xin is pursuing a PhD degree with the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in the department of TCM Internal Medicine, while Sandy is part of the team exploring the potential benefits of using TCM pills in improving male fertility and increasing the chances of pregnancy – a joint research project between Thong Chai Medical Institute and the KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
Kon Wen Xuan (SBS/2023) has just finished his studies and plans to pursue a PhD degree and study the use of data science to provide evidence that supports TCM efficacy.
He explains: “Before my enrolment, I knew that Chinese medicine has advantages in treating certain ailments and has minimal side effects if used correctly. I thought that it should be integrated into our healthcare system for diseases that can be treated more effectively by TCM than Western medicine. This would be the best of both worlds and offer the optimal treatment for every patient.”
Kvan has a few more years at LKCMedicine before he starts work in a hospital where he plans to work in the emergency department. He says: “I have always been interested in emergency medicine. Ultimately, I aim to be a doctor that patients can trust and I hope to be able to bring comfort and solace to them.”
As for Dorothy, she plans to volunteer at talks and overseas medical trips to promote Chinese medicine. She says: “During the course of my studies, I know that besides my own family, Mr Sim and his family are rooting for me. This has helped me to persevere through difficult times and now, it drives me to work hard in the TCM field. Till today, I still remember a piece of advice that Mr Sim gave me: Study hard and give back to society. If possible, stay in this industry and help it reach new heights.”
This article first appeared in issue 3 of U, the NTU alumni magazine.