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SNEC Founding Medical Director

The Late Professor Arthur Lim

A Founding Father, Leader, Advocate and Mentor
Professor Arthur Lim had a long-standing passion and interest in the education of medical students as well as future generations of eye doctors. He had played a pivotal role in medical education, not only through his appointment as Clinical Professor and Head of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Department of Ophthalmology, but also through his publications.

SNEC benefited immensely from Professor Lim’s passion and accomplishments in education. SNEC’s education programmes, fellowships, the Continuing Medical Education (CME) programme, conferences, workshops and courses in our annual educational calendar were the direct result of his personal guidance and encouragement. His unflagging demand for high quality teaching programmes paved the way for SNEC to emerge as the regional hub for ophthalmic education.

Furthermore, Professor Lim was the prime mover of subspecialisation in the SNEC and in Singapore. He identified the best medical officers and groomed them for the various subspecialties: vitreo-retinal, cornea, glaucoma, refractive surgery, medical contact lens, paediatric ophthalmology, oculoplastic, ocular inflammation and immunology, and neuro-ophthalmology. Starting with just 25 Senior Consultants and Consultants a decade ago, the SNEC’s impressive team of ophthalmologists has now doubled in size to become a formidable force matched by few centres internationally.

The NUS, Professor Lim’s alma mater, also benefitted from his outstanding contributions over the last five decades. He went from serving as an assistant lecturer in Anatomy in 1957 to being the first Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at NUS in 1991, making enormous contributions towards the sterling development of ophthalmology in the University and in Singapore.

Outside of the professional field, Professor Lim devoted incalculable time and energy as the Chairman of the NUS Endowment Fund. He worked tirelessly to raise funds for education and research for the NUS. Since 1991, funds obtained through his efforts — with matching contributions from the government — totalled $162 million. The funds were used to set up prominent professorships in science, engineering, economics, law and medicine. For his selfless voluntarism towards his alma mater, Professor Lim was recognised in 1999 with the prestigious Ernest T. Stewart Award for Alumni Volunteer Involvement in the US.


Research Advocate
In pushing to build a research institute within SNEC in the 1990s, well before biomedical research was recognised as being critical to the development of healthcare systems, Professor Lim yet again proved to be a true visionary who saw trends far into the future. Today, SERI is spearheading translational research on eye diseases critical to Asia.

As an internationally recognised ophthalmologist and educator who actively promoted the teaching of ophthalmology throughout Asia, Professor Lim has placed Asian ophthalmology on the world map. Since the 1970s, he had conducted numerous courses, microsurgical workshops and international meetings all over Asia. These programmes transcended national boundaries and had benefited thousands of ophthalmologists.

Professor Lim was responsible for bringing the examinations of the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh) for ophthalmology to Singapore. He was also the Course Director and Chief Examiner of the Conjoint Master of Medicine (Ophthalmology)/FRCS (Edinburgh) Examination at the School of Postgraduate Medical Studies, NUS. In 1990, he was the President of the highly acclaimed International Ophthalmology Congress held in Singapore with 7,600 participants from 78 countries.

Leading Beyond our Shores
Besides his commitments in Singapore, Professor Lim held many international appointments. He was Secretary-General of the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology for 15 years, the second Vice-President of the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis and member of the International Council of Ophthalmology and the International Ophthalmic Advisory Board. In addition, he was the Founding President of the World Eye Surgeons Society, which has close to 1,000 members and volunteers from 98 countries around the world. In 1991, the Asia-Pacific Association of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (APACRS) inaugurated the APACRS Arthur Lim Lecture. This was followed by the SNEC Arthur Lim International Lecture to honour its distinguished founder in 1999 and the Chinese University of Hong Kong Arthur Lim Lecture in 2000.

Of special mention is Professor Lim’s leadership in the prevention of mass cataract blindness. His work, in particular in the People’s Republic of China, has been recognised worldwide as a major contribution to alleviating cataract, a reversible blinding conditions that afflicts an estimated 15 million people in Asia alone. He advocated the use of the modern method of cataract extraction with intraocular implant to restore normal vision for patients. He was also responsible for setting up five training centres in China which have now successfully performed close to a million cataract implant operations and trained more than 2,000 eye surgeons across China. These centres have become successful models for similar training centres in Asia.


Awards and Honours
For his outstanding contributions to Singapore, Professor Lim was awarded the national Public Service Star and the Public Service Star Bar. In 1996, he was awarded the Friendship Medal by the Chinese government and was accorded honorary citizenship in Tianjin (1991) and Xiamen (1998). In 1999, he was honoured by the Chapter of Surgeons and conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Medicine by NUS. In 2012, Professor Lim received the Business China Excellence Award from former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for having demonstrated exceptional vision and leadership in promoting the training of the modern method of cataract extraction with intraocular implants in China.



Publisher Par Excellence
Over the course of his career, Professor Lim authored and edited over 40 medical and non-medical books, published over 300 scientific papers and delivered numerous named lectures. In a span of 35 years, he authored an average of a book every two to three years. 

Professor Lim was also among the first Asians to be invited to write guest editorials for the American Journal of Ophthalmology, the authoritative journal in the field. His writings on socio-medical issues had stimulated international debates on mass cataract blindness and the human right to normal vision. For his academic distinction, he was invited to be part of the editorial boards of 14 established journals and medical publications. He was honoured with 12 major named lectures around the world and had been invited to speak at hundreds of international and regional meetings.

Professor Lim’s book, The Colour Atlas of Ophthalmology, is into its fourth English edition and has a circulation of well over 30,000 copies. As a testament to the book’s worldwide appeal, it has been translated into eight languages: Spanish, Portuguese, German, Finish, French, Chinese, Malay and Indonesian.