Dr Edwin Low taking part in the SG50 National Day Parade together with his son, Captain Timothy Low.
Dr Edwin Low, Group Director, Regional Healthcare System, SingHealth has held diverse leadership appointments in the healthcare industry. But did you know that he spent a decade as Chief Naval Medical Officer from 1994 to 2004 and is a father to three children who have served or are still serving in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)? It seems the military blood runs deep with this family! 1) What are some of the fondest memories of your days with the Republic of Singapore Navy?
The ten years I spent as Chief Naval Medical Officer (CNMO) allowed me the rare opportunity to develop medical support capabilities for the then expanding Navy. It was invigorating to work with young, bright medical officers (MOs) and regulars to develop these new capabilities such as medical support at sea for new ships like the landing ship tanks (LST), frigates and submarines. Many of those MOs I used to work with are now senior consultants with SingHealth!
2) You were involved in quite a number of overseas healthcare missions. Can you share more?
I have been on three overseas missions as part of the SAF – the Baguio earthquake in 1990, Operation Desert Shield (then Storm) during the Gulf War in 1990 and finally the Meulaboh earthquake in 2004.
The Meulaboh earthquake aftermath was the most devastating that I had ever witnessed. The massive underwater earthquake measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, triggering several tsunamis which wreaked major destruction in the region. In response, the SAF activated “Operation Flying Eagle”, deploying over 1,500 personnel to aid affected countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. This was the largest Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operation carried out by the SAF at the time.
After I joined SingHealth, I was involved in two missions led and staffed by SingHealth volunteers i.e. the earthquakes in Pakistan (2005) and Yogyakarta (2006). As part of the advanced party, my role was to ensure systems and equipment were in place for when the rest of our team arrived.
3) Your children are either serving or have served in the SAF before. Were their decisions inspired by your work in the Navy?
I never actually encouraged them (really!) but I guess having seen me enjoy the work over the course of my Navy career made them less apprehensive about considering a career with the SAF. The SAF also has very convincing recruiters!
My eldest son is a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) pilot flying naval helicopters and my second son is a naval officer. A lesser known fact is that my daughter was also a regular for about 6 months as she had a provisional SAF Merit Scholarship. She even completed Basic Military Training (BMT) and the first term of the Officer Cadet School before she got accepted into medical school here and decided to pursue that instead.
Dr Low’s “Tri-Service” Children – From L to R: Timothy, Elise and Ian.
4) You have an interesting career path, transiting from the navy to the healthcare industry. How has your experience with the SAF shaped your career?
Unlike the ten years in the same post as CNMO, I have held several appointments - nine to be exact - in the healthcare industry after I left the SAF in 2005. The positions span across diverse functions, from strategic HR, clinical governance to biomedical research funding.
The many similarities between the two sectors, like corporate structure and governance, risk management, occupational health and safety and emphasis on staff welfare, helped prepare me for the varied experiences and opportunities in the healthcare family.
5) What is your favourite past time?
I enjoy long walks and landscape photography and plan my holidays around these considerations! I would say the most interesting holiday destination to date would be Iceland because of its unique landscape.
On a day to day basis, I enjoy keeping myself fit by hitting the gym 3 to 4 times a week. I do aerobics for cardiovascular strength and lift weights to prevent frailty!
A photo of Iceland's rugged landscape by Dr Edwin Low.