Wednesday, November 30, 2005

This Man Should Have Been Malaysia's Own

Kian Ming's recent post "Racial Policies Keeping Malaysian Academics Out", highlighted a Professor Lee Eng Hin, who, due to discriminatory policies migrated to Singapore to pursue his career. His case was highlighted in the Chronicle of Higher Education this month.

I'd just like to add here, exactly who Professor Lee Eng Hin is, and what a brilliant man the country has lost. And our loss, is of course, another country's gain.

You can review a more detailed resume of Professor Lee in the NUS Medical School here. In summary, this man joined the NUS in 1993 as a senior lecturer and was appointed a Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery in 1997. He became the Head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in 1998, and later became the Director of Graduate Medical School as well as the Dean of the School of Medicine in the year 2000.

At the same time, he is also the Head in the Division of Paediatric Orthopaedics in the National University Hospital as well as a Senior Consultant for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

Not only is Professor Lee appointed to top leadership positions in one of the world's top ranking universities for the field of medicine, he is also an award-winning one. Professor Lee received the Gallie-Bateman Prize for Research in Basic Science, University of Toronto (1979) as well as the Most Outstanding Basic Science Research Paper, Paediatric Society of North America (1993 and 1996) for his various pieces of seminal work.

Professor Lee is also one of the leading personalities at the forefront of stem cell research in Singapore.
His main research areas are in Musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering and Paediatric Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. Combining his interest in Paediatric Orthopaedics and Tissue Engineering, he was one of the first to study the use of mesenchymal stem cells in the repair of physeal defects in long bones of children.

This work is now at the stage of clinical application. He has won international research awards twice in the area of tissue engineering and was recently invited to write an editorial on Stem Cells for the Journal of Paediatric Orthopaedics, the premier journal for paediatric orthopaedic surgeons. He was the Presidential Guest Speaker for the British Orthopaedic Association Meeting in September 2004, speaking on "Stem Cells in Orthopaedic Research". He is currently the Program Leader of the NUS Tissue Engineering Program (NUSTEP).
Not only did this man excel academically and professionally, he is also a socially responsible citizen. Professor Lee was Singapore's President's Social Service Award winner for 2004. He was a "volunteer who stands out above the rest".
In his work with various voluntary welfare organisations over the past 20 years, Prof Lee has helped to shape the national special education scene as well as improved the quality of life for disabled children.
...His contributions date back to 1984, when he initiated Seating for Severely Disabled Children, a project sponsored by World Orthopaedic Concern to help children who otherwise were unable to sit.

... He also helped set up Rainbow Centre, the umbrella body that coordinates the activities of MDSS [Early Intervention Programme, Programme for the Multiply Handicapped and a Programme for Children with Autism] and Balestier Special School in 1992, becoming the Centre's Vice President, then President in 1998.

... For his selfless giving of time and expertise for the good of children with disabilities, Prof Lee has also been presented with two National Day Awards, one in 1998 and another in 2003.
This man should have been one of our very own for the nation to be absolutely proud of. But instead of welcoming him with open arms, we helped nudge him to join our neighbour down South. To quote Professor Lee:
It was obvious you wouldn't get very far if you weren't the right race... Having come here I think I made the right choice... [In Malaysia,] I probably would not have become a head of department and dean of the Faculty of Medicine.
I'm a supporter of affirmative action, even possibly a race-based one. However, when affirmative actions mutate into a conspicuous policy of racial discrimination, the negative impact will not only be felt by the discriminated, but also by the ethnic group which the affirmative action is intended to help.

Today, Malaysian students, academics and citizens of all races will not have the benefit of experiencing the academic and research leadership, first class professional expertise and the dedicated humanity of Professor Lee Eng Hin.


Anonymous said...

Well... No one in power seems to be the least bit bothered about losing talents to other countries. And mind you, Dr. Lee is not the only talent this nation has lost. Scores of capable people have left the nation over the years simply because they knew there was no prospect of being given equality in all areas, be it academics or the corporate world. Wawasan 2020? I guess Malaysia can eat her own words. No nation is worthy to be called developed if the human resources are incompetent.

Anonymous said...

gotta agree with Dan there. they don't care...

Anonymous said...

Maybe Tony or Kian Ming should set up an interview with these incompetent people to find out their 'opinions' on matter like these. I for one am curious on what are on these people's mind.
Curious to hear what kind of denial state of mind they can really have.


Anonymous said...

Professor Lee received the Gallie-Bateman Prize for Research in Basic Science, University of Toronto (1979) as well as the Most Outstanding Basic Science Research Paper, Paediatric Society of North America (1993 and 1996) for his various pieces of seminal work. I wonder if he has also won awards at any Trade Fair?

Anonymous said...

If you've read The Global Malaysian column in The Star(StarTwo pullouts) recently, most of the personalities published are non-Bumi who are professional and first class in their respective fields. And they chose to live and contribute to their adopted countries instead of M'sia. Yet the government just brushed them off without giving them a damn consideraton. How ironic with the "wooing" that promised by the government.
My conclusion is, our govenment is terribly WRONG!

Anonymous said...

May I offer a view that Prof Lee may not have been able to do what he did had he been taken up by Malaysian institution? May be Malaysia is not the right environment for him to excel.

Now that isn't this worth thinking about.

I hope this goes above and beyond ethnic argument, as this blog may be viewed with such biases by convinience.

There are many such individuals, be it of other ethnicities that Chinese, that have been subjected to such rejection. If this is a result of 'ethnic based policies' than it is negative. If it is due the inability for instituiton to detect talent, or to offer the right scheme for persons of such calibre, then it is sheer stupidity, or simply 'unlucky chaps'.

I believe anyone can contribute to Malaysia as a nation irregardless of location, but I concur that 'local activism', by being locally engaged in society, is what we needed most.

Anonymous said...

i somewhat agree... talented people, regardless of race, will not go far ... perhaps due to the incompetent people in power.

Keith said...

I can't help but wonder... would he have achieved all that had he been dean of a University with less funds and a much smaller and more limited talent pool. I think partial credit for his success has to go to the various facilities provided by his current employer. If he had been in UM or USM, he still would be successful (no doubt) but as to how successful... no one knows.

We lost a great person to singapore, but as to whether he would have realized his full potential in Malaysia remains to be seen. This of course, does not change the fact that the systems that are in our local public Universities are both opaque and bureaucratic causing many of our greatest minds to leave in search of greener (more transparent) pastures.

Anonymous said...

I think if he would have been in UM, his achievements would be far less.

Firstly, our technology also lag behind Singapore.

Secondly, race policies will prevent him from becoming a Dean of Faculty.

I guess the path he chose was the right one for him. Perhaps UM would have been advanced much better in biotechnology with his calibre.

What do to... the country doesn't appreciate?

Famous quote:

"If you don't like, please leave the country"

Anonymous said...

Even if he belongs to malaysia, or if malaysians do have brainy people, but still we don't have the adequate facilities/resources to do what they want. So, the alternatives are go to where the opportunities are, don't blow your chances. In return, the other party may have some regret after losing such a talent... In cases like India, poverty was one of the main reason, many left to pursue their dreams overseas... while in Malaysia, it's the "games" that "people" play that's are unfavorable sometimes...

It's something like how the footies start do, if the club/country doesn't offer any opportunity to progress, move on to a better one! ;)


Anonymous said...

I do not mean to rebutt what Rahmat Bayudi has said..

But the argument he has put forth can always be turn around in the other way..

"..May be Malaysia is not the right environment for him to excel..."

You are right, it is worth thinking about... why??

One possible reason, the people on top lack the vision or academic leadership to guide or recognise the prime area in research..

That's why Tony has emphasized in the blog that VC or dean or head of department are not merely acting as administrative people.
they are suppose to provide academic leadership in research and curriculum design..

Some of our IT graduates from IPTAs have complained that their course are not up-to-date to meet the demands of employer... Could that be the dean/department head lack the quality of academic leadership in curriculum design..

A university would be not pioneer in society if it cannot offer latest technological courses to students or doing cross-cutting research that bring innovation..

Could that explain why quite number of IT grads from IPTAs face hardship in current job market!

Second point..

"...but I concur that 'local activism', by being locally engaged in society, is what we needed most..."

I think this is secondary, and not difficult to do for person whom grow up in Malaysia..

But his prime goal as scholar and researcher, has higher calling than "local activism"..

Again, the key word is academic leadership...What is the in-thing right now..and what would next important theme to research/teach in the next 5 years...

No talent-- No new research--no innovation---no new products---no revenue---no demand for hiring new workers--new grads hard to find job..

See the vicious cycle ?

Always see thing in a bigger picture,

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This global-local debate will always be the contested gorund in any situation. If what we target is 'global excellence' than we shall not limit the movement of our own 'Malaysian' experts. The concern raised here is mostly targetted at people who should have been involved locally, help to progress the nation's 'ailing' educational system, but prefer to cartry their trade elsewhere for various reasons.
If there is a lack of 'choice' to be locally engaged, then why not indeed find a more suitable venue to excel, locally or globally. He or she will still be 'Malaysian' and sooner or later, we hope the prodigal sos and daughters will return. Being locally engaged does not mean we will lag behind in seeking 'global calling' type of excellence.
'Local activism' I was referring to, as a result, may be therefore left to people who were less able or less qualified. Well, that is their choice. Problem begins when these 'less capable' people start to think that they are the experts in education in Malaysia, not realising that the 'real experts' prefer to remain outside the country, for very good reason indeed.
If the so called 'people at the top ' in is not capable to provide the appropriate 'academic leadership' )(managers vs leaders argument), then why not we voice it, via writing like this, but officially sent to the relevant authority. Any good citizen (with the little 'faith' we still have) should write their good input and send them to say, the Prime Minister's office. Personally I have done so, but until today I have yet to receive a reply. Perhaps the feedback system at the PMO website is still not working. So much for that.

Anonymous said...

to me, s'pore is just what malaysian dream visioned by LKY realised.
so, to KL, or Spore, it is OK!

the casualty of m'sia univ policy is the poor chinese / indian, who can't afford oversea edu.
For those rich students. Do you think they want to study locally!? So, the policy make not much difference, if you look at it this way.

Anyway, as a businessman, it is easier to make money in m'sia than spore. And more Opportunity here too.

Anonymous said...

take the clues from
YTL, Airasia...etc.. and those who make it BIG here....
forget about limitation,...
they are various types that will pop up as different forms, for example in s'pore, can anyone competet with GLSs, one will say that is unfair practices etc....
learn to live with it and Thrive!

Anonymous said...

Most uppper middle malaysians opt for Australia, instead of downsouth, for better academic, democracy, freedom and quality of life critias.

Remember the recent case of Warwick U.

Anonymous said...

Malaysian was founded as a multi-racial country. The Constitution was drafted, and the basic objective is to create a lpluralistic and equal society. But throughout the years, the government made discriminatory and divided policies, till today. What a shame. Please read...,908.0.html