Learning > Inspiration

At 93, this full-time doctor has no plans to retire

Theresa Tan‍ Senior Social Affairs Correspondent on 11 Feb 2021

The Straits Times


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Working full-time at the age of 93 is pretty much unheard of, but it is even more remarkable when you are a doctor running a clinic 5½ days a week.


Staying active in his chosen profession is obviously a bracing tonic for Dr George Khoo Swee Tuan, who is very likely Singapore's oldest working doctor - and one with no plans to retire.


Dr Khoo, who turned 93 last month, told The Straits Times: "I will carry on as long as patients want to see me and I can see them. I can go on until I drop dead."


However, he does admit that his health is not as robust as before, as his faculties have slowed down "a bit" and his legs are not as strong.


Still, he has no major health problems, except that his blood pressure is a bit high.


Dr Khoo, a grandfather of two, said: "I think my health is not too bad for my age."


There is no standard age limit for doctors to engage in clinical practice, as the requirements that determine a doctor's fitness vary across different clinical settings.


A Singapore Medical Council (SMC) spokesman noted that doctors must keep up to date and achieve the continuing medical education requirements to be able to renew their practising certificates.


He added: "Doctors also have to adhere to the SMC's Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines, which define the doctors' obligation to practise within the limits of their competence and not cause any harm to patients due to physical or mental impairments."


A Singapore Medical Association spokesman said Dr Khoo is possibly the oldest doctor it is aware of who is still practising.


Dr Khoo said he regularly attends medical seminars as part of the continuing medical education requirement to keep doctors abreast of medical advances, adding: "I'm old but I'm up to date."


The youngest of four children, Dr Khoo was born in Melaka in 1928.


He won the prestigious Federal Scholarship in Malaysia to study medicine at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore.


Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad was his classmate and the late Dr Toh Chin Chye, Singapore's former deputy prime minister, taught him physiology in medical school.


Dr Khoo described Tun Dr Mahathir as a good friend with whom he has stayed in touch all these years.


In 1963, Dr Khoo joined his wife's uncle Ang Swee Hian at the fellow doctor's Ang Clinic in Rochor Road.


Dr Khoo set up Rochor Medical Centre at Rochor Centre in 1977. The clinic moved to Veerasamy Road in Little India in 2016 after Rochor Centre was set for demolition.


Dr Khoo, whose wife died about two years ago at the age of 85, has treated patients from four generations of the same family in his 58 years as a general practitioner.


Many of them put the obvious question to him.


He said: "There are patients who ask me how I do it - live so long? I'm careful about my diet, I exercise, I don't smoke and I'm a teetotaller."


Dr Khoo tries to walk at least 5,000 steps a day, although he has cut back as his legs are not as strong as they once were.


In his more than half a century as a doctor, he has seen patients through various outbreaks - like cholera, smallpox, and now Covid-19.


The difference this time, he said, is the devastating damage the pandemic has inflicted on the world, from lockdowns in many countries to ravaging the global economy.


While Dr Khoo's legs may not be as strong, he has no desire to put his feet up: "People ask me why I'm still practising. I have to keep my brain active.


"I have seen friends (whose health) went down the drain after they retired. I also enjoy living and what I do for a living."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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