Khoo Oon Teik



Khoo Oon Teik (Dr) (b. 30 March 1921, Penang, Malaysia5 March 2012, Singapore) was a doctor and the founder of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) in Singapore.1 Called the “Father of nephrology in Singapore”, he established the first renal dialysis unit, as well as the intensive care and coronary care units, at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) in the 1960s.

Education and early life
Khoo was born in Penang and studied at the Anglo-Chinese School there. In 1937, he was admitted to the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore.3 His studies were interrupted when the Japanese invaded Malaya and Singapore.4

During the Battle of Singapore, Khoo was responsible for deploying senior medical students to operating theatres at SGH. He worked in Penang as a medical officer after the British surrendered, and was later sent by the Japanese to the railway being constructed between Burma and Siam.

When the war ended, Khoo worked as a nutritional officer under the British Military Administration before resuming his studies at the college. In 1947, he was conferred the Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery.6 Khoo was then appointed tutor in clinical medicine, and later became chief clinical assistant to Gordon A. Ransome (Professor), founder and first Master of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore.7

Together with Ernest Monteiro (Professor), Khoo started the Skin and Leprosy Clinic at SGH in 1948.

In 1952, Khoo attained his Master of Medicine from the University of Malaya.9

Medical career 
Khoo became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1952, and then a fellow in 1966. He was admitted as a member to the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow in 1953.10

Khoo became director of SGH’s renal unit in 1961.11 In 1964, he helped start SGH’s first intensive care unit, followed by its first coronary care unit in 1967.12 Then in 1971, he became head of SGH’s Medical Unit II.13


In 1965, Khoo was appointed professor of clinical medicine at the University of Singapore – now National University of Singapore (NUS).14 He subsequently served as chairman of NUS’s department of medicine.15

In addition, Khoo was a founder member and Master (1964–66) of the Academy of Medicine and the Association of Physicians of Malaya. He was also a founder of the Singapore Dermatological Society and served as its president from 1960 to 1975.16

Concerned with social issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, ageing and the lack of hospitals for the dying,17 Khoo helped set up Alcoholics Anonymous in Singapore in the 1950s and the Drug Dependence Clinic in 1971.18 A Methodist, Khoo was also chairman and later president of the International Congress of Christian Physicians.19 He retired in 1979.20

Establishing the National Kidney Foundation
In the late 1950s, Khoo’s brother, Khoo Oon Eng (Reverend), died of kidney failure after much suffering.21 The experience motivated Khoo to establish Singapore’s first renal dialysis and transplant unit at SGH in 1969. He started the unit in an attic at the hospital, together with fellow doctors Gwee Ah Leng, Lim Cheng Hong and Lee Yong Kiat.22 Then on 29 March 1970, the renal unit at the University of Singapore’s department of clinical medicine was opened by the university’s then deputy vice-chancellor, Reginald Quahe.23 


In the 1960s, around 200 people died from kidney failure each year, and Khoo realised that many could not afford the cost of dialysis.24 In 1969, Khoo and a group of volunteers organised a film premiere to raise funds to make dialysis available to renal patients under the auspices of the NKF.25

Khoo founded NKF in 1969 as a society under the Societies Act.26 He established the foundation as a societal help scheme for needy kidney patients.27 On 7 April 1969, the NKF was inaugurated by then President Yusof Ishak.28

NKF collaborated with various government organisations, hospitals, as well as religious and community organisations, as Khoo believed in working with different segments of the community to form a resilient network for kidney patients.29 He was also a strong advocate of public funding for dialysis treatment programmes and rehabilitation of kidney patients.30 By 1999, about 1,600 kidney patients – two-thirds of all kidney patients – were receiving subsidised treatments.31

Khoo chaired the NKF until 1995, when he had to retire after a stroke and an operation to remove a cyst in his brain.32 

After the NKF corruption scandal in 2005 involving then Chief Executive Officer T. T. Durai, there were calls from the public to have the name of NKF changed.33 However, the government resisted these calls as it wanted Khoo’s “legacy of selfless volunteerism to live on”.34

Legacy

In 2009, Khoo was called the father of dialysis treatment in Singapore by then Minister for Health Khaw Boon Wan.35 Khoo has also been credited with promoting medical excellence by initiating specialisation in doctors’ training during his 32 years at SGH and NUS.36 In addition, Khoo spearheaded specialities in cardiology, endocrinology and metabolism, gastroenterology, dermatology and nephrology at the National University Hospital.37


In honour of Khoo, the Khoo Oon Teik Professorship in Nephrology was set up by NUS in 1999 to carry out research on kidney disease, expand clinical and laboratory programmes, and engage world-class experts to assist and advise local doctors in the field.38 It had an initial endowment of S$6 million, of which S$4.5 million were from the government and S$1.5 million from NKF.39

Death
Khoo had been in poor health since 1995 when he underwent an operation to remove a brain cyst. In February 2012, he suffered epileptic seizures and organ failure; he died at 1.30 am on 5 March 2012 at SGH.40 

Khoo left behind three sons and nine grandchildren. His wife, Adeline, died from heart attack in 1996.41 



Author
Alvin Chua




References
1.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2.
Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
3.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
4.
Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf
5.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
6.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
7.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU); Academy of Medicine, Singapore. (2017). History. Retrieved 2017, April 25 from Academy of Medicine, Singapore website: http://ams.edu.sg/about-us/history
8.
Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 415–416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
9.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
10.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
11.
Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 415–416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
12.
Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
13.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
14.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Prof. Khoo takes over from Monteiro at S’pore U. (1965, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Cheong, S. (1977, February 15). Build hospitals for the dying callThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
17.
Junkies from the upper class homes. (1973, June 25). The Straits Times, p. 1; The pitfalls of early retirement. (1979, September 9). The Straits Times, p. 6; Problem of caring for the old in S’pore in year 2000. (1975, August 24). The Straits Times, p. 7; Cheong, S. (1977, February 15). Build hospitals for the dying callThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
19.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: the encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 279. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
20.
Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21.
Tan, W. (1999, July 11). Tribute to the founder of NKFThe Straits Times, p. 21; Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
22.
Tan, W. (1999, July 11). Tribute to the founder of NKFThe Straits Times, p. 21; ‘We’ll put system back on track’. (2005, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
23.
Soh, T. K. (1970, March 29). Fresh hope of kidney cureThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24.
Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25.
NKF. (2015). Our history. Retrieved 2016, August 7 from NKF website: http://www.nkfs.org/about-nkf/background/our-history/; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU); Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf
26.
‘We’ll put system back on track’. (2005, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27.
Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28.
Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 371. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); ‘We’ll put system back on track’. (2005, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
29.
Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Transplant a vital part of treatment and not an experiment. (1973, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 9; Tan, W. (1999, July 11). Tribute to the founder of NKFThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30.
Peters, M. (1968, September 6). The first kidney transplant in Republic soonThe Straits Times, p. 1; ‘We’ll put system back on track’. (2005, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31.
Tan, W. (1999, July 11). Tribute to the founder of NKFThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32.
‘We’ll put system back on track’. (2005, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 24; Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
33.
Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32; ‘We’ll put system back on track’. (2005, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34.
Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35.
Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32; ‘We’ll put system back on track’. (2005, December 22). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36.
Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37.
Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Salma Khalik. (2009, April 8). NKF founder honoured for contributionsThe Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38.
Lee, E. J. C., & Chew, C. H. (2012, May). Obituary: Dr Khoo Oon Teik (1921–2012). Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(5). Retrieved 2016, August 7 from Annals Academy of Medicine Singapore website: http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/41VolNo5May2012/V41N5p234.pdf; Tan, W. (1999, July 11). Tribute to the founder of NKFThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
39.
Tan, W. (1999, July 11). Tribute to the founder of NKFThe Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Suryadinata, L. (2012). Southeast Asian personalities of Chinese descent: A biographical dictionary (Vol. 2). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 416. (Call no.: RSING 959.004951 SOU)
40.
Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41.
Tan, T. (2012, March 6). Singapore’s kidney health pioneer dies. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 25 June 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

Subject
Khoo, Oon Teik, 1921-
Health and medicine>>Medical science>>Medical profession
Public health
Physicians--Singapore--Biography
Politics and Government>>Health
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies