Dr Lee Keen Whye, Dr Anna Wong, Dr Low Boon Yong, Dr Goh Mei Lin, Dr Kek Lee Phin and Dr Lee Soon Tai.

Childhood friends Dr Low Boon Yong (’76), Dr Lee Keen Whye (’77) and Dr Lee Soon Tai (’77) are a testament to the transformative powers of education. Growing up in harsh conditions, they shattered the shackles of poverty to emerge as healthcare and hospitality stalwarts. An enriching university education was one of the main catalysts for their success. Turning gratitude into action, the trio are determined to extend the same opportunity to others by setting up a bursary to empower students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) to rise above financial difficulties and realise their medical aspirations.

 “We are thankful for the medical education 50 years ago, which allowed us to grow from strength to strength. As an expression of gratitude for the benefits we have received, this gift is a gesture to demonstrate our sincere appreciation and thanks to the University,” shared Dr Low Boon Yong.

Championing the bursary’s establishment, Dr Low rallied his batchmates who graduated in 1976 from NUS, at that time known as the University of Singapore. The collective effort also serves as a heartfelt tribute that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Medical Alumni Association in 2023. As such, the gift is named the Alumni Association Centennial Celebration – Medical Class of ’76 Bursary. 

As a commitment to the future of healthcare, the Bursary supports financially challenged undergraduates who are studying to become doctors, nurses, dentists or pharmacists. Drawn by the noble cause, the medical community and their friends and family have come forward to contribute. The doctors hope to garner the support of like-minded individuals to donate to the Bursary at the Medical Alumni’s gala dinner in November this year.

The importance of a good education was instilled in them at a young age. Despite grappling with financial challenges, their parents insisted on sending their children to school. The three young boys ended up studying in the same schools for 11 years, including five years at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Singapore.

“All of us were born in the 1950s in very humble families. At that time, children had very poor formal primary education and many did not attend school at all. We were fortunate that our parents understood the importance of formal education… During that period in the early 1970s, only four per cent of each cohort had the opportunity of entering tertiary education. We were the fortunate ones,” said Dr Lee Keen Whye.

Following their graduation, Dr Low and Dr Lee Soon Tai pursued surgical fellowships and became orthopaedic surgeons. Dr Lee Keen Whye is now an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. The three friends eventually became business partners too. In 2012, they ventured into the hospitality sector and the seeds for Clover Hotel Group were planted. Originally established in Singapore, the boutique hotel chain has extended its roots to Thailand and China.

Be it attending to patients in hospitals or serving customers at hotels, a singular principle holds true — people are the heart of whatever they do. Guided by this core value, they generously volunteer their time, skills and resources to improve the lives of people.

They have helped out at Voluntary Welfare Organisations and assisted elderly individuals, who live alone in old folks’ homes. Dr Low served as a board member in the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore. Dr Lee Soon Tai was the medical director of the Ling Kwang for Senior Citizens and Singapore Christian Home. Dr Lee Keen Whye was instrumental in mobilising doctors from Gleneagles Hospital to regularly distribute essentials to those in need.

Setting up a bursary fund for their juniors at NUS is the latest in their charitable endeavours. By giving to the University, they are co-creating a more inclusive society where education truly becomes a social leveller. And that extends beyond a mere act of kindness. They aspire to ignite a virtuous cycle, wherein the beneficiaries will be inspired to pay it forward.

Expressing his hopes for this initiative, Dr Lee Soon Tai remarked: “We hope that our contributions will be able to help some medical students to fulfil their aspirations too and inspire them to achieve greater heights in their studies and careers in the future. This will perhaps create a chain reaction for them to do the same.”