Special Feature: Heroes in a Time of Crisis
COVID-19 has disrupted our world in myriad ways, yet the NUS spirit of giving continues to shine through our alumni community. Many are working tirelessly at the frontlines and sidelines, displaying acts of volunteerism, courage, selflessness and compassion. Here are our alumni who have stepped up in different capacities to serve the community. #OneNUS #SGUnited
Dr Sudesna Roy Chowdhury (Medicine ’20)
In early April, Singapore saw a sharp rise in cases as well as a seismic shift in the demographics of new cases, from our citizens to migrant workers. I still remember the exact moment I felt compelled to create a translation tool for frontliners — it was a gov.sg Telegram message on 13 April, at 11.58pm, and the first day that foreign workers in gazetted dormitories became the significant majority of the cases. I was devastated — especially knowing the difficulties they face in the local system given its unfamiliarity and a heavy communication barrier. It was that burst of emotion that drove me to create a website of English-to-Bengali medical history questions overnight, ready before a new batch of doctors were about to enter the dormitories the next day. Since then, a small community of volunteers has come together to dedicate its efforts towards document translation, phone interpretation and website development. These efforts spilled into other minority language communities as well, and the next step forward is to apply these concepts to dialects for the elderly Singapore population. Still, the greatest challenge yet is to create long-term, sustainable change for demographics that we otherwise have little incentive to fight for. In the future, I hope to continue being a health advocate for such minorities in our country.
Ms Kow Weiman (Arts and Social Sciences ’10)
I have always loved comics since I was young, and read a breadth of inspiring, journalistic, autobiographical, scientific and indie comics, on top of the usual local, Japanese, and Western comics. I created a comic on how coronaviruses spread as a fun side project and personal reminder to myself of the simple steps that could be taken to protect against respiratory illnesses. It has since been translated into over 40 languages and used in schools, governments, and hospitals globally. I felt that the speed of the translations was due to me taking inspiration from the technology sector, where I work as a User Experience designer, and open-sourcing the comic translations to the public. Facts are important in the battle against the disease, which is why I sought out doctors to vet new comics that I create. I have since started up a social initiative, comicsforgood.com, where I continue to publish COVID-19 comics while encouraging other artists to produce comics to explain difficult topics on social good to the public, with stringent vetting by subject matter experts.
Dr Zhou Lihan (Science + USP ’07)
MiRXES was founded in 2014 by three like-minded NUS faculty and alumni to develop accurate, affordable, and actionable cancer early detection solutions. The team (with key functions led by 15 fellow alumni) now operates five R&D laboratories, as well as two ISO13485-compliant manufacturing sites with strong regulatory and commercial capabilities in Singapore, USA, Japan, and China. These capabilities enabled us to respond quickly in late January to collaborate with A*STAR in the mass production of the Fortitude RT-PCR test kits. Fortitude, the first COVID-19 test approved in Singapore, is now one of the most widely-deployed tests globally, and is used in more than 20 countries. Four months on, the team is still on an adrenaline rush to develop even more effective solutions to address the evolving COVID-19 diagnostic needs, but all of us look forward to returning to our day job of revolutionising the early detection of cancer.
Kudos to fellow alumni who make us so proud with their selfless contributions in the fight against COVID-19. For more stories, please go to nus.edu.sg/alumnet/community/NUS-Alumni-Covid-19-Heroes.