Six role models win this year's S'pore Youth Award

Six role models win this year's S'pore Youth Award
(From left) Doctor and clinician-scientist Iain Tan, paralympian Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha and orthopaedic surgical resident Kumaran Rasappan at the Istana yesterday. The other individual winners are film-maker Anthony Chen, mountaineer Jane Lee and music lifestyle company Timbre Group’s co-founder Edward Chia.

Film-maker Anthony Chen, who directed the award-winning movie Ilo Ilo, was among six winners of the Singapore Youth Award (SYA) yesterday.

Mr Chen, the youngest-ever recipient of the coveted Camera d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival last year, was recognised for his achievements in film-making and contribution to Singapore cinema.

The film tells the story of a Singaporean family and their live-in maid.

His fellow winners were mountaineer Jane Lee, 30; music lifestyle company Timbre Group's co-founder Edward Chia, 29; paralympian Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha, 29; doctor and clinician-scientist Iain Tan, 35; and orthopaedic surgical resident Kumaran Rasappan, 30.

The University-YMCA Singapore also received the SYA team award for encouraging youth volunteering.

The Malay Youth Literary Association was also awarded a medal for its community empowerment initiatives.

More than 115 people were nominated for being an inspiration or role model to young people.

The six individual winners received their awards from Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the Istana.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who is chairman of the National Youth Council which administers the annual SYA, was also present.

At the ceremony, Mr Edward D'Silva, who chaired the SYA panel that selected the winners, said in his opening address that he saw the "backbone of our shared future" in these young people.

"If there is one thing we can be assured of, it is that they will not wait for change to happen," he added. "These role models will continue to blaze the trail and inspire others around them."

The SYA is conferred on young people who have excelled in their fields of pursuit and contributed significantly to society.

Driven by a desire to integrate

She never let her condition stop her from taking part in activities.

"I couldn't climb ladders or slide down the slides," said Ms Nurulasyiqah Taha, 29, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy which requires her to use a wheelchair.

Instead, she planned routes around the playground for her two younger siblings - a desire for inclusion that eventually led her to join Singapore's national Boccia team.

Boccia is a sport requiring players to throw balls as close to a target as possible.

She was first exposed to it in 2003 while studying at Singapore Management University and soon fell in love with the game.

"It feeds my competitiveness," she said.

In January this year, she represented Singapore in the 7th ASEAN Para Games held in Myanmar and won gold medals in two Boccia events. She was also Singapore's flag bearer.

Yesterday, she was awarded the Singapore Youth Award for her contribution to local sport and her effort to make a difference in the lives of people with physical disabilities.

Ms Nurulasyiqah is a strong advocate of an inclusive society and said the disabled "do not want to be treated specially".

"We just want to integrate into the community," she added.

Ms Nurulasyiqah also gives motivational talks at primary and secondary schools and companies, in which she discusses her experience as a wheelchair-bound athlete.

She said: "I try in my own ways to help change the 'heartware' in people."

He fights for cancer patients

Dr Iain Tan wears two rather big hats: He is both a research scientist and a medical doctor. But he sees his work as a perfect marriage between technology and medicine, and as being highly complementary.

"There is so much progress in science and technology that we can use in medicine to help patients," said the 35-year-old about his motivation.

Based at the National Cancer Centre Singapore as a specialist, he is also a clinician scientist at the Genome Institute of Singapore.

The father of three children said that while his patients may not immediately benefit from his research, he hopes that in a decade, his work will bear fruit.

In 2010, he won the Young Investigator award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology for his research in personalised medicine for the treatment of stomach cancer. Last year, he was awarded the Terry Fox Foundation Research Grant. He was also given S$1.2 million by the National Medical Research Council in January this year.

He is working on finding new diagnostic methods for early detection of cancer recurrence.

Cancer patients always face the risk of their cancer returning even though it has been removed, he said. "With colorectal cancer, if we can pick it up early, there is a chance that we can still cure them even if the cancer comes back," he said.

With his research, he hopes to devise new ways of testing that eliminates the possibility of false negatives. He said: "We want to find the most accurate test possible. It is a work in progress."

This article was first published on JULY 7, 2014.
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