Tuesday, 14 Jun, 2022
Dr Low Lee Yong: approaching life with tenacity and generosity
Like most children growing up in 1960s Singapore, Dr Low Lee Yong spent his childhood years in a kampong house which his family shared with a dozen relatives. The fourth of five children of a street peddler and a housewife, he started helping his father peddle pots and pans from the age of nine.
Dare to dream
A tenacious and forward thinking youngster, Dr Low decided early on that medicine would be his ticket out of poverty. Unfortunately, his illiterate parents and his Chinese educated siblings were unable to guide him along.
“People looked down on me due to my background and poor command of English. Some teachers even said I was hopeless,” recalled Dr Low.
Despite the odds, Dr Low did not give up, working tirelessly to make the most of every opportunity.
For example, he would memorise words and sentences in The Straits Times to reuse them in exams. In secondary school, he attended biology lessons after school hours so that he would be able to study medicine in the future. His determination paid off, scoring a distinction in biology which paved the way for his medical degree from the National University of Singapore.
Dare to fail
Just when Dr Low was one step closer to becoming a surgeon, life dealt him yet another curve ball. He suffered severe giddy spells when he had to stand for long stretches, effectively shattering his surgeon dream.
He went on to become a general practitioner and subsequently founded Make Health Connect (MHC) Asia Group in year 2000, which created the first web-based medical claims system in Southeast Asia. Similarly, the winding road to MHC’s success was littered with failures, betrayal, million-dollar debts and near bankruptcy. But with unshakeable tenacity and self-belief, Dr Low tackled the problems head-on to turn things around.
Today, MHC Asia Group comprises a network of more than 2,000 panel clinics in Singapore and Malaysia providing cashless outpatient visits. It processes over two million medical claims a year.
Making possible the impossible through giving
For nearly 10 years, Dr Low has been helping medical students in financial need by establishing bursaries in local medical schools. Here at Duke-NUS, the MHC - Meek & Lowly Bursary was established in October 2019. It was named in honour of Dr Low and his wife, Mrs Meek Low.
“As a poor kampong boy, I had to give tuition, work part-time and borrow money from my church to finish medical school. I don’t want other financially needy students to go through what I did,” explained Dr Low.
Faith Wong, an MD student from Class of 2025, is a recipient of the MHC - Meek & Lowly Bursary. She was a former creative media professional turned peer support specialist at the Institute of Mental Health before enrolling at Duke-NUS. Faith hopes to one day set up Singapore's first emergency mental health respite care centre to provide treatment specifically for people undergoing mental health crises.
In 2019, in celebration of MHC Asia Group’s 25th anniversary, Dr Low donated $1 million to support needy students through the ST Pocket Money Fund, SMA Charity Funds, the three local medical schools and Goducate, an NGO which helps to educate the needy in Asia.
Dr Low Lee Yong is the founder and CEO of MHC Asia Group. He has received many awards such as the International Management Action Award by the Chartered Management Institute Singapore. To date, he has authored two books: I Dare to Dream – Making Possible the Impossible, and I Dare to Dream Big. From Struggle to Significance.
Dr and Mrs Low at the launch of his second book I Dare to Dream Big. From Struggle to Significance. Credit: Dr Low Lee Yong