General Internal Medicine
Designatory Letters: 
MB Malaya 1955, FRCP Edin 1988

(Contributed by YC Chee and  CH Chew)

Dr Andrew Chew was a Fellow of the Academy of Singapore since 1965. On 19 August 2004 he was conferred its Honorary Fellowship at a ceremony during the Singapore-Malaysia Congress of Medicine where President SR Nathan, President of the Republic of Singapore and Patron of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore attended. Then he was still serving as Chairman of the Public Service Commission and as the Pro-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore. His unexpected demise is a loss to all in the medical fraternity and to Singaporeans at large.

Dr Chew was born on 11 October 1929 in Kuching, Sarawak in Borneo. He came to Singapore and studied at St Andrew’s School passing with a Grade I in the 1948 Cambridge School Certificate Examination. He excelled in sports in the well- known tradition of the school. He embarked on a career in Medicine, and graduated MBBS from the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1955 and joined the Singapore Civil Service as a Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health at the tender age of 27 years. A disciple of  Professor Sir Gordon Arthur Ransome, he trained in Medical Unit I at the Singapore General Hospital. In 1960 he became Senior Registrar at the Thomson Road General Hospital, under the late Professor Seah Cheng Siang. At the age of 35 years Andrew was promoted to Medical Superintendent, Thomson Road General Hospital and a superscale officer in the civil service in 1964. Three months later he moved to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) as its Medical Superintendent. He was promoted to Senior Consultant grade. In 1970, he was Medical Superintendent of Singapore General Hospital and a year later he was promoted and returned to the Ministry of Health as Deputy Director of Medical Services (Hospitals). A most supportive medical administrator, he promoted joint collaborative projects between the Tuberculosis Research Committee and the British Medical Research Council, leading to the establishment of present day short course therapeutic regimens for tuberculosis.

Doing sterling work in the Ministry, he was duly recognised and awarded the Public Service Administration Gold Medal in 1975 and two years later was appointed to be concurrently the Acting Permanent Secretary of Health as well as the Director of Medical Services. He was then 48-years-old. His meteoric rise through the superscale grades of the civil service was phenomenal and by age 52 he was Permanent Secretary Grade A. At 55-years-old in 1984 he left the Ministry of Health to take up the posts concurrently of Second Permanent Secretary (Public Service), Ministry of Finance; Permanent Secretary (Special Duties), Prime Minister’s Office (under Mr Lee Kuan Yew); and Deputy Head of the Civil Service – three important and high profile portfolios. Some seven months later he was appointed Head of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary (Public Services), Prime Minister’s Office. He retired from service on 11 October 1994 and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. He was a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Edindurgh.

Andrew was the archetypal true, dedicated loyal civil servant who would have signed off letters “Yours Obediently”. He gave his whole life to the civil service such that when he retired at age 65 years, the government still required his excellent professional services. He was Chairman, Central Provident Fund from 1994 to 1998, then Chairman of the Public Service Commission until July 2008. He served as Chairman, Board of Governors, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (from 1976), Member, Presidential Council for Minority Rights (from 1994), Member Legal Service Commission (from 1998) as well as Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellowship and Scholarship Fund, and the Dr Goh Keng Swee Scholarship Fund (from 1998). In 2002, the government conferred on him the Distinguished Service Order.

In the last two years, Dr Chew underwent three major operations. First, he had bladder surgery. Then he had his hip joint replaced – a long standing injury from his schoolboy rugby days. He recovered and returned to golf. In 2012 he underwent cardiac valve surgery at the National University Hospital (NUH) but suffered a stormy post-operative period. Sadly he did not recover and passed away in hospital on 29 February.

Despite his busy schedule of service, he had led a full life enriched with friends. Andrew was a man of devout faith, always “doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly”. He was a family man, a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather.

Dr Chew was always decisive, not one to procastinate. Any problem he was challenged with, he dealt with it with clarity of vision and a brilliant mind. To those who say doctors are too narrowly trained Dr Chew proved otherwise. He was the administrator par excellence and we are grateful for his life of service to the nation. His sterling service to Medicine, to the Civil Service and to Singapore will long be remembered.

He is survived by his wife Jennifer, daughter Juniper (a PhD), son Paul who is head of Ophthalmology NUS, their spouses and four grandchildren.