Professor Chia Boon Lock (1939 to 2017) left us on 27 Dec 2017.
A much loved and respected person at the National University Heart Centre, Singapore (NUHCS), Professor Chia Boon Lock can be described in so many ways: A courageous man who in his battle with a life-threatening disease for 34 years never wavered in the face of mortality; a brilliant doctor who devoted his entire life to the single-minded pursuit of excellence in Cardiology; a selfless teacher who was ever so willing to share his knowledge with others; and a great mentor who was generous with his advice. He was the epitome of an honourable person who had led an honourable life.
Prof Chia graduated from the University of Singapore in 1963. He was placed in-charge-of Cardiology in Medical Unit II (later known as the University Department of Medicine II) at the Singapore General Hospital from 1975 to 1985 and later became the Head of Department from 1981 to 1983. After moving over to National University Hospital, he became Head of the hospital’s Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, from 1986 to 1989 and Chief of the Cardiac Department from 1996 to 1999. Amongst his many achievements, he was the first to introduce ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, and one of the first two cardiologists to introduce echocardiography to Singapore. His leadership roles included the former President of the Singapore Hypertension Society, Chairman of the Ministry of Health Workgroup for the Clinical Practice Guidelines on Lipids and a Member of the Workgroup on Hypertension. He was also President of the Singapore Cardiac Society, Chairman of the Chapter of Physicians, Academy of Medicine (now the College of Physicians, Singapore) and a Member of the 17th and 18th Council of the Singapore Medical Association. Prof Chia was conferred Emeritus Professor, National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2006, and Emeritus Consultant, National University Heart Centre, Singapore (NUHCS) in 2005. He was an Honorary Member of the Singapore Medical Association since 2008, and had won the Lee Foundation-National Healthcare Group Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 and conferred the Dato Paduka Mahkota Brunei in 1984.
However, Prof Chia's greatest contribution must be his lifelong commitment to the teaching and education of generations of medical students, doctors, cardiologists, nurses and allied health professionals in Cardiology, especially in the field of Electrocardiography. In his unique and humorous ways, he never failed to charm, endear and captivate his audience with his profound insights into issues pertaining to Cardiology, and especially in his reading and interpretation of electrocardiograms. Over the years, he had published 158 scientific papers in both local as well as international medical journals and had written 2 books – the popular “Clinical Electrocardiography” (4 editions) which is read by practically every medical student and doctor, and the “Atlas of Two-dimensional and Doppler Echocardiography”. This must surely be his true legacy to future generations. In addition, he had also published novel ECG findings in the diagnosis of acute inferior myocardial infarction, acute pulmonary embolism and heart failure.
"Cardiology is my life passion and my hobby, and I've been very lucky to have chosen something that I love.”
In 1983 at the age of 43, Prof was diagnosed to have Stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer when his two children were still very young (the older boy, who is now an oncologist in private practice, was only 7 years old then). That year began his arduous 34 years of personal battle against the disease, while at the same time bravely soldiering on in life to continue his medical career and bringing up his family. At the time of his demise, Prof Chia was a proud grandfather of 2 lovely grandchildren. Despite the many intolerable side-effects of radiotherapy which included visual, hearing, swallowing and bleeding complications, Prof Chia maintained his poise and composure throughout and did not succumb to despair.
“I was born to bear the unbearable. I had a good life. I want to have a good death. There will be no heroic treatment.”
That was so typical of Prof Chia Boon Lock, so admirably strong.
Singapore Cardiology has been fortunate to have benefited from Prof Chia Boon Lock’s lifetime of contributions to the fraternity. Many of us have been fortunate to have him as a teacher, a mentor and as a friend. We will always hold him dearly in remembrance. May you rest in peace, Prof.