Did you know that just over 26 years ago, Geriatric Medicine as a service was non-existent in Singapore? The need for this specialty only came about after the Committee on the Problems of the Aged realised that Singapore's demographic pattern and life expectancy was changing profoundly! It was during then that it was predicted by 2030, about 1/3 of our population would be 60 years old and above.
To nurture the growth of Geriatric Medicine, Dr Jayaratnam (4th from the right) invited the late renowned Prof John Pathy (6th from the left) and Dr Rhian Owen from UK to help with the initial training and department establishment
To tackle this pressing need, the then Minister for Health approached Dr Francis Joseph Jayaratnam (picture, right) of Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He was tasked to pioneer a comprehensive geriatric service in Singapore.
Soon after visiting the leading geriatric centres in Glasgow and Cardiff, Dr Jaya returned and established a small geriatric division within his department. By December 1988, TTSH was home to the first Department of Geriatric Medicine in Singapore.
Under Prof Jaya's mentorship, many of his students excelled and became outstanding geriatricians, including Dr Din Yew Yoong and our former CEO, Prof Philip Choo. The department soon gained rapid recognition and contributed to the formation of Geriatric departments at Alexandra and Changi hospitals by deploying its trained physicians.
Within the span of 26 years, we witnessed the tremendous progress of Geriatric Medicine in Singapore.
As we celebrate the opening of our new Centre for Geriatric Medicine on our 170th anniversary, let's cast our minds back and not forget how it all began!