Reflections and Recollections from the Frontline

Reflections and Recollections from the Frontline

14 May 2021

A/P Kenneth Mak on how Hwa Chong prepared him for the future

Mr Pang Choon How (Principal) browsing the Yearbook from Assoc. Prof. Kenneth Mak’s batch

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak has become a familiar face to Singaporeans as a leading policy-maker in the fight against Covid-19, as the Director of Medical Services (DMS) at the Ministry of Health. 

Before this post, he had spent four years serving as Deputy DMS, overseeing, among other areas, the development of crucial primary care services in Singapore.

What you may not know: he got his start at Hwa Chong.

Returning to his alma mater as the Guest-of-Honour for Graduation Day 2020, he fondly reminisced about his time in Hwa Chong, recalling cherished memories of attending signature events such as the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, and participation in sports with his classmates.

Beyond these experiences, A/P Mak also reflected on the valuable life lessons he learnt from the school’s nurturing community of teachers, seniors and peers. These lessons would set him up for the illustrious career in medicine and public service he has since embarked on.

Most important of these lessons was that of open-mindedness. Exposed to a diverse range of views in school, he quickly learnt to embrace different perspectives. It is exactly this receptiveness that A/P Mak now practices, when working with a wide range of stakeholders to craft and execute a whole-of-society response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Such collaboration comes in myriad forms, including coordinating with different government ministries. Furthermore, as a surgeon by training, he recognises the benefits of drawing on the expertise of colleagues in different fields, ranging from infectious diseases experts to public health physicians.

Another significant value he came to champion during his time here is that of flexibility. 

He recalls a Biology teacher who, eschewing the traditional curriculum, spent a month getting students to build their own DNA models, engaging students by teaching the syllabus around this interactive activity.

Inspired by the way his teachers tried out innovative pedagogies, he recognises that going against convention is not just useful, but sometimes necessary. 

Now that the pandemic has disrupted many traditional job and education opportunities, letting go of old paradigms and adapting to different routes is ever more vital.

Fuelled by the intention of helping others, the route he chose to take – pursuing medicine – was in fact deeply inspired by his own Hwa Chong seniors, who used to return to share their experiences and advice. These sharing sessions affirmed A/P Mak’s belief that public service is laudable and worth pursuing.

Today, he says he is happy and privileged to be doing what he is doing, contributing to society in the weighty role he has been entrusted with.

While Hwa Chong was but a small stepping stone in Associate Professor Kenneth Mak’s distinguished career, his time here nonetheless left an indelible mark on him. Hopefully, his story will inspire future generations of Hwa Chongians to come.

Written by Soh Yong Xiang (20A15)